The memory is a dozen years old now, but vivid. I couldn’t tell you what it was like outside, but I remember that room. I even remember what I was wearing. But even more clearly, I remember what my son looked like — a pudgy little nine-month old, in a hospital gown, snot dripping from his nose, coughing non-stop. He had pneumonia. It was awful. We were first time parents, trying to deal with a sickness we couldn’t seem to do anything about. All day long, nurses had been in and out poking him for one reason or another. There were eight failed attempts to find a vein in his chubby arms into which to insert the IV. He was miserable and terrified and confused as he looked up at us as yet another person in a white coat stuck a needle in his arm — and that baby in the hospital bed could not figure out why daddy wouldn’t stop this.
To that point in my life, I had never felt a feeling like that. I didn’t think I was capable of it. I wanted to offer my arm for those needles so he wouldn’t have to scream and suffer anymore, but that wouldn’t have done any good.
Then, I remember later that night, when he was lying on that hospital bed with a tent over him filled with some kind of medicated air, still just as scared as before, still just as confused, still just as amazed. And I still felt that indescribable feeling in my heart, my gut. He was scared. He was helpless. He needed help. I didn’t know what to do, but I had to do something. So I somehow crawled this big body up on that little hospital bed and squeezed up under that little tent with him, so that I could hold my son and tell him: “It’s OK. Daddy’s here. It’s OK. I’m here.”
Christmas is you and me hearing that same thing from God. “It’s OK. I’m here.” But the thing is, from him, they aren’t just words. When I climbed up under that tent, that’s all I had — words. I could not take away one single bacteria. I could not give him one ounce of health or physical help. I couldn’t take away any of his pain. But God, when he comforts us, his presence changes everything.
Think about what it means that God has entered into our world. We have filled this world with the effects of our sins that we just keep piling up. We’ve made this beautiful thing God created ugly. And yet God came here. That’s what Christmas means. God became one of us to save us. Look at what the angel said: “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
The Christ, the Messiah, the promised Savior that would crush Satan’s head while his own heel would be struck. That is the one who is born. The hymn writer puts it better than I could in that Christmas carol: “Mortals, now be still and ponder rhapsodies transcending earth. Angels sing the glory-wonder: God descends to such a birth. Depth of love we cannot fathom, Christ declares we have such worth.” He loved us so much that he entered as he did — not to destroy us, but to restore us, to love us, to make us his own.
Look at how the angel makes that clear: “This will be the sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” As God enters our world, the sign would not be trumpets and thunder claps, the sign would not be beams of light shining from his face or consuming fire destroying all who crossed him. The sign would be that God would so humble himself, that the one who created the world became a creature, that the one who spins the planets and hurls the comets, who holds the seas in their shores and the stars in the skies couldn’t even hold the weight of his own head and needed to be cradled by a teenage girl. He took the swaddling clothes of a pauper so that he could wear the strips of linen in his grave — so that by his work, we could wear robes of righteousness.
God climbed into our world, and with more love than that clunky dad in the tiny kid-sized hospital bed can even comprehend, he actually fixed our problems. He removed every reason for fear. He restored our hope and healed all our diseases. God’s love made his word true. It is OK. He’s here.
So this Christmas, as you look at that child — not the one in the hospital bed, the one in the manger — hear the message of the angel. In the midst of all the commotion of this world and the distraction of your busy lives, hear the message of Christmas. “Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ, the Lord.” “It’s OK. He is here.” Joy to the world. The Lord is come. Let earth receive her king.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.