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Advent Dec 23: Uncommonly Common, Gloriously Inglorious

• Aaron Kruse

Posted in Advent, Devotions

Advent Reading for December 23: Luke 2:1-7

Reflection: Uncommonly Common, Gloriously Inglorious

The birth of Christ takes up much space in story books, movies, Christmas pageants, songs, and poems. Certainly these advent readings cover many events in the Gospels surrounding the coming of Christ, such as the birth of John the Baptist, the visits of Gabriel to Mary and then to Joseph, the announcement to the shepherds, the visit of foreign wise men, and the blessing of Simeon. There are also all of the amazing prophecies fulfilled in the circumstances surrounding the advent of Jesus. Yet Luke here records the birth of Christ in a single, simple sentence. Mary gave birth, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.

These three statements are incredibly common. Mary gave birth. Every human since Adam and Eve has been born by their mother. No one comes into our world in any other way. Mary wrapped him in swaddling cloths. Outside of the horrors of abortion and abandonment, it seems that babies in every culture would be cleaned and wrapped for warmth when they are born. Mary laid him in a manger. Babies are laid to rest, whether in cribs, bassinets, or on their mother's breasts. These common things that Luke records tell about the humility of Christ. He left heaven and “made himself nothing, … being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). He came like us, out of a mother's womb, crying and cold, needing air and food and rest. This is our likeness. This is God in flesh.

These three statements are also incredibly uncommon. Mary gave birth. This is Mary, the virgin, the betrothed of Joseph, as mentioned just two verses before. Not yet his wife. Not one human since Adam has been born without an earthly father. But Christ was. Certainly Joseph was there to give the care of a father and protect him and his mother, but Jesus was born without a connection to Adam, without our sinful nature. He was perfect as no baby will ever be. The virgin birth was the indispensable beginning of the sinless life of Christ, and the sinless life of Christ is our righteousness (Romans 5:19; 8:3-4).

Then there are the swaddling cloths. As a king, as the king of the universe, it seems uncommon to be wrapped in everyday cloth. What about silk? Or a special blanket prepared for the most unique baby in history? No, just an everyday way of wrapping a baby tightly to keep his arms from flailing and to help him in the transition from the closeness of the womb to the wide open world. It may be true that other royalty of the time was wrapped like this, but Israel's Messiah should have been given the best.

Finally she laid him in a manger; not a crib, but a place for animals to eat. It is possible that it was not even a wooden trough set up off the ground with lots of soft hay. It may have been a ledge in the wall where the food for the animals was placed. It may not have even been in a structure with a roof, but just in a pen or enclosure to keep in the animals. Not only has our king come, he has come humbly. This is not common. Kings do not come like this. This is poor and needy. And still, this is God in flesh.

We are left then with this: Jesus, the Christ, the son of God, left heaven and was put into a body like ours. Considering these things as uncommon also points to the second chapter of Philippians. Why would God come in humble form? For the end result: "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11). Everything is from the Father and through the Father and to the Father (Rom. 11:36). Jesus came in humility, would live in humble servitude, and would die in humiliation for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3). God raised him high up for this and gave him a wonderful name (Phil 2:9-10; Heb. 1:4). All of mankind, some in abject horror of judgement and some in satisfying joy, will bow to him and say with their whole heart that he is Lord. This will be because of the glory of God, through the glory of God, and for the glory of God forever. Jesus came in wonderfully, uncommonly, common circumstances to gain glory for his Father who is over all.

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love
– “Joy to the World”

Aaron Kruse

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