“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And the came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”
I am not making light of the record of Christ’s birth when I say that such a lovely passage of scripture is meek and mild enough for even for A Charlie Brown Christmas. The image of baby Jesus lying in a manger evokes no offense, no fear, no conviction of sin, and no images of divine retribution associated with grown-up Christianity.
As long as Jesus is but a baby in a manger, no one has any objections. But unshackle Him and let Him escape the manger and the story takes a dramatic turn. The preaching, teaching Messiah speaking of love, righteousness, condemnation, and judgment is such a danger He must be crucified.
It is then that people so enamored of the baby in the manger begin to criticize this teaching, question His divinity, and ignore His message of reconciliation with God, proclaimed by the herald angel. The adult Jesus is a danger to inflated egos, personalized versions of the truth, and self-designed standards of behavior.
Baby Jesus does not shine a divine light on hypocrisy. He does expose errant hearts that say “Lord, Lord”, yet have no acquaintance with Him. Baby Jesus does not evoke any need to obey God.
Mark Twain once wrote a story titled, Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven, a satire of the Sunday School version of heaven—at least what he knew of such things—which doesn’t seem to be much. Like his childish story, the child Jesus is just so much fluff.
The real grown-up Jesus is a tough, courageous, outspoken man, closer akin to a Drill Instructor than the milk toast teacher darling of the ignorant. Jesus was quick to point out the errors, and unbelief of even those closest to Him, without a single qualm.
Baby Jesus and the season of the manger are loved because in it people find no real Jesus saying:
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”
Baby Jesus does not speak at all. He is a silent gift of God left on our doorstep by angels who rang the bell and fled away. He’s cute, he’s a sympathetic image, and he is harmless as long as he stays a baby in a manger.
If you truly wish to celebrate the Christian reason for the season, and peace on earth and goodwill toward men, then you must make the journey from Bethlehem to Calvary with the baby who became a man.