“When we open the door to Him, we find that on the other side is something staggeringly gracious—a place in His heart.”
The mystery of the Incarnation hovers over Christmas, whispering through the twinkling lights and beckoning in the silent nights
. That “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made” should come down from heaven and put on our tattered flesh—here is awe and wonder! Here is joy to the world
and all the true magic of Christmas. Immanuel has come: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory …” (John 1:14).
But what a home we gave Him then. “No room at the inn,” the story goes. Bethlehem hospitality fell short that night in what could only be described as an epic fail. Now, eager to make amends, we sing, O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee. We want to clear a space, sweep away the dung and stale hay, and prepare a proper bed for baby Jesus. If God is choosing to make His home in us, then we feel we need to have things just right on Christmas Day.
Yet, almost inevitably, the turkey burns or the cat throws up under the tree. Tensions surface between family members or we are stuffing our mess into a hall closet two minutes before company is due to arrive. It’s so hard to get it just right, so hard to make space in our cluttered souls. How many times do we lie awake the night before Christmas whispering, “I’m not ready”?
But what if Christmas is not so much about making room in our hearts for God as it is God making room in His heart for us? What if the glory of the Incarnation was far more than our closets could contain?
Here’s the good news: Christmas isn’t about all that we can do to get ready for God. All the preparation of home and heart could never be enough. But that’s exactly the point. God knew we didn’t have the room. So He made a space for us first.
Our eternal salvation depends on this thing we call the Incarnation. We often think of the Incarnation as a past event, recorded in the first few chapters of Luke so long ago. But the Incarnation is very much a present reality. Something happened to God in the Incarnation. Mysterious as it may be, He is, in a way, not the same as before the Incarnation. This was of God’s own choosing, of course. Not from His need or lack, for God can have neither, but from love’s miraculous extravagance. Though uncreated and unlimited in nature, He took our finite frailty and bound it to Himself in the union of perfect God and perfect Man. With her own eyes Mary saw the fullness of God in the face of a baby.
Before we had a clue He was coming, God made space for us. He opened His perfect being to humanity when He assumed our flesh. He did this in order to take the full weight of human sin upon Himself and conquer death’s stranglehold on our souls. He shared our nature so we could share in His. We had no right to enter that Holy of Holies, but He threw Himself open, tore the veil of His own flesh, and said, “Come on in.”
And here’s the thing: this union between God and man still exists. The Incarnation was not a temporary state of affairs for the eternal Son of God. Jesus did not discard His Bethlehem body at death. It was raised incorruptible! And Jesus will return bodily to the earth at His second advent. It is the Son of Man who now sits at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69), and His hands still bear the scars of the cross (John 20:27). God made a permanent place for us within Himself, a real physical space in the shape of Jesus Christ.
The manger was just the beginning. God knew we could never make enough room. He knew we could not contain Him. So He made room for us, a room that is open for all who wish to come in by way of His wounds. There is truth to the words of that joyous carol, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” We can choose to open our hearts to His presence, but it is in response to what He has already done, the room He has already made. When we open the door to Him, we find that on the other side is something staggeringly gracious—a place in His heart.
So, ready or not, this Christmas Day, remember: it’s not about you. God has deck[ed] the halls
of heaven and He calls us to come and adore
, enjoy and rest. At the end of the day and at the end of the season, when Christmas is boxed away for another year, there remains a sacred dwelling space with God. The glory of the Incarnation shines on, a steadfast beam welcoming us home.
Lindsey Gallant loves everyday theology and lives with her family on their mini-farm in Prince Edward Island, where she blogs at theredlettersblog.com.
Click here to subscribe so that you can receive the full content of each issue of testimony.
This article appears in the November/December 2015 issue of testimony.
image © istockphoto.com