At Christmas, our tendency is to romanticize the story of Jesus. We sing about the angels and wise men and all the familiar elements of the story. But the truth is that, from the outside looking in, the birth of Jesus wasn’t that impressive.
He was born in a barn in a tiny town as a common baby of unimpressive circumstances. There’s nothing romantic about that.
That’s why the Jewish people missed the Messiah. They were waiting for some great, regal event in which the long-awaited Messiah paraded himself into Jerusalem.
But God is cloaked in the common. He walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden rather than sitting on a huge, distant throne. Jesus was common, and we often miss Him—at Christmas and throughout the rest of the year—because of three particular problems:
1⃣ We have an uncommon concept of God. This time of year, our Christmas carols talk about Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus came as our Messiah to pay for our sins, and now He lives with us. He’s inside us. He’s inside other people.
This challenges our thinking, because we are ordinary. We think, “I’m so fragile, I’m so sinful, I’m so scarred-up.” We think, “God couldn’t live with a person like me. He wouldn’t live in my house.” But He does.
God lives in a common world among common people. Jesus was born to common parents. We keep looking for God in certain places but don’t realize He is already all around us, every single day, if we will just seek Him.
2⃣ We are too familiar with God. This is illustrated in the third chapter of Mark, which tells how Jesus’ family didn’t even believe in Him when He started His public ministry. He was healing the sick and raising the dead, but the people in his hometown, Nazareth, only saw Him as the son of the local carpenter, Joseph.
The same thing happened with Lucifer, who was the worship leader in Heaven before he became known as Satan. Lucifer became too familiar with God and stopped treating Him with reverence, according to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. He took God for granted.
Taking God for granted is a problem all of us deal with—especially because God is a relational God. He comes to us not with flashing lightning and booming thunder, but as a loving Savior who holds our hand and walks with us through trials. That comes with the risk of us becoming too familiar with Him.
3⃣ We emphasize magic moments and monuments. We attribute the presence of God to certain things or places. It might be a particular church or Christian denomination. It might be a special kind of church service. It might be an especially moving time of worship.
But like Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4, God is Spirit, and He wants us to worship in spirit and in truth. That means God is everywhere. He’s like oxygen. You can’t put Him in a fixed place.
That means we can worship in any place, at any time. Some people have had powerful spiritual experiences at camps or revivals, and they think, “Well, God was there.” Yes, He was. But He was also with those people before the mountaintop experience, and He was with them after it. He’s everywhere.
Jesus was born in common circumstances. He lives in common places. He doesn’t show up in a special way at special times, but is always with us.
He is Emmanuel, God with us. The Jews missed Jesus, but the Wise Men found the Christ child and worshipped Him. That’s my prayer for you this Christmas. Don’t take Jesus for granted, but don’t miss Him, either. Instead, seek Him in the common corners of your life.
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today