If This Is God … by Brian Zahnd
If This Is God…
As we know, there was no room in the inn at Bethlehem, so the peasant couple from Galilee took refuge where they could. And as we know, the girl was “great with child” and her due date was nigh. As it turned out, the baby took his first breath and uttered his first cry in a cave that sheltered livestock. A feeding trough was turned into a crib for the newborn. A stable that had seen the birth of calves, kids, and lambs, now saw the birth of…GOD.
This is what Christians confess about Christmas.
We confess that Emmanuel (God with us) joined humanity, not by swooping down from the celestial heavens in a golden chariot, but by being born — born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Like all of us, God was pushed from the womb through contractions, labor, agony, and blood, to enter headfirst into the beautiful and horrible mess that is our world. This is not Athena springing fully formed from the head of Zeus, this is Jesus born of Mary.
To fulfill the promise of Emmanuel, God had to be born of woman. But God could have been born in a palace instead of a cave. This is what we would expect. God could have been born into the prosperity of billionaires, into the privilege of power-brokers. Isn’t that where kings come from? Not in the gospel story.
Artwork: Nativity by Giovanni di Paolo, c. 1450.