People talk about the wonder of childhood Christmas as if the “magic” of it fades with adulthood. The Christmas tree did seem to shrink as I grew, but with each passing year of my adult life, I think that Christmas gets more and more big, deep, high, and just plain surprising!
The very thought of God coming to earth, condescending to live with us as one of us, and then die for us, is all too much to take in at the mere face value of the words we use to communicate the Christmas story.
And the cornerstone of that wondrous, shocking love-story is the baby Jesus became.
So, was Jesus fully God even as a baby? Let’s look at what the Scripture tells us:
The Word Became Flesh
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
John’s words assert that God the Son (also called the Word of God) came and lived among us yet He was full of the glory of God because He was fully God. He did not grow into God. He was God!
He Will Be Called Immanuel
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear A Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25). Matthew records that Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit and that He would save people from their sins, and that His name would be Jesus and Immanuel meaning “God Saves” and “God with Us.”
Again, Matthew’s account doesn’t sound like someone growing into deity, but deity come in fullness. God with us, not God growing with us. Matthew tells of God in His fullness coming to be fully with us!
A Baby in a Manger
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:6-14). The account of Luke is full of more descriptions of Christ’s coming than just this section of Scripture. But this is perhaps my personal favorite.
God sent His Son’s birth announcement not to kings in palaces, but to lowly shepherds living outside — outside literally and often figuratively outside because smelly sheepherders just generally didn’t make the cut for the popular crowd. I love that our Lord is like this!
The angels’ announcement was, “Don’t be afraid! There is Good News for everyone. God has come to save you from your sins and the way you will know is this: There’s a baby wrapped in rags in a stable!”
That God came as a baby and didn’t just appear as a fully-grown man in the prime of life, was part of God’s plan to be a sign to us! He was fully God and yet He wanted us to know He had come to be so thoroughly with us that He came as a baby!
The shocking sight of God as a human baby was part of the plan! It was a sign for us.
As I watch my son grow, sometimes I remember my own struggles to grow and then consider how God came and lived as a kid. Endured the struggles of teenage life.
All the waiting to live out His calling and it’s simply too big to wrap my mind around that God chose all that as part of His coming to save us.
In no way did He shortchange His human experience. He felt the pain of the cross, He was hungry and tired, endured traffic jams of people, politics that He wouldn’t have chosen, slept in random places because His ministry required it, and He even lived, speculatively, through diapers, teething, acne, and just all of it!
It wasn’t even for Him. He was God. He already knew completely what it was to be human because He knows all things. It was for us. For me. For you. So that we could know He understood us.
So that we could know our Lord doesn’t hold His children at a cosmic arm’s length. He is with us! So close that He became one of us. As our world spins full of unknowns and fears, the baby in the manger is the most comforting hope we can hang our hearts on. Because that is the sign God gave us to show us that He is with us! But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…” (Isaiah 43:1-2a). Throughout Scripture, God spoke over His children words to quiet their fears but the most powerful words that hush my heart’s anxieties is that no matter what “I will be with you!”
Fully God and Fully Man
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
Although Jesus was fully God when He was a baby, He emptied Himself and was found in appearance as just a man, even a baby.
God is big enough to grasp being human and God at the same moment. Big enough to submit Himself to death, but too powerful to be mastered by it! Praise Him!
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, God came looking for them, calling to them. He knew exactly what had happened the moment sin entered Creation, yet He still came to hear their story, to make a covering for them, and to give them hope of the promise that would heal the sickness that had now come upon all Creation.
Over the next millennia, He gave “breadcrumb” promises through prophecies that revealed more and more of His coming until the day He finally came. And when He came, He chose to come as a baby!
Why Does This Matter?
When you think of Christmas, the Baby Jesus, and the manger scene, let it remind you that His arrival shouts, “I am with you!” and let that message stir comfort and peace over your struggles and worries.
Let it encourage service and humility over the offenses in your heart and let it strengthen and anchor your soul to the confidence that your God is with you in and through everything this life can throw at you.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kmevegas
This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!
Listen to our FREE Christmas Podcast: The Characters of Christmas - The Surprising People in Jesus' Family: