There is something unique about watching a creator working with his or her native materials, be it a builder, a cook or a musician. There’s an ease and engagement with the tools of their trade. Buildings and food and music flow from their hands.
A number of years ago in one of Sydney’s most exclusive jewellery stores, a customer approached the counter with a very expensive item. The attendant went to open up the sale on the computer, but the system froze. As she visibly started to panic, the customer asked if he could help. He leant over and solved the problem with a few brief taps on the keyboard. It was not until he left the store that someone pointed out that that was Bill Gates – the man behind Microsoft and the probable inventor of most of that computer system. Without knowing it, she had briefly witnessed the creator dealing first hand with his creation.
Every Christmas, we stop and celebrate that very thing on a far greater scale. We mark that moment in history when the Creator entered into his creation, not in a fleeting way, but over a nine month stretch which gave birth to a life like no other: the life of Jesus Christ, the son of God.
We know that God makes everything, but surely his most extraordinary workshop is the womb. It is there that his most intimate, detailed work is done. Psalm 139:13-16 is an ancient celebration of this fact:
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Of all that God makes, human beings are his masterpieces. We are the only parts of his creation made in his image. (Genesis 1:26,27) For most of history, the place where we are formed has been hidden from our sight. Even though we now glimpse ‘the secret place’ in 3-D ultrasound, it remains a place of wonder and mystery. This is where we are woven together- inner and outer. We are hand made, knitted together in a process that is fearful (ie awesome) and wonderful. Even the most detailed technical account of what happens from conception onwards does not really ‘explain’ what’s going on in the womb.
We celebrate this wonder at any time in the year, but at Christmas we see God enter that intimate workspace in a new way. In Jesus we see the Weaver become one with what is woven. This interwoven state is captured in one of his names – Immanuelle or ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:22,23)
For God to be truly ‘with us’ – not simply present as he was to Moses on Sinai, for example, he must come a certain way. He doesn’t arrive like a terminator from another time, or a glowing figure from another dimension. He comes as a fertislised egg that grows into a fully formed baby in a virgin’s womb. This ensures that the timing and method of Jesus’ arrival remains God’s call, not that of a husband or wife, or even a prospective mum. It also presents us with the mind-bending truth that the living, eternal God has become flesh and made his dwelling here. (John 1:14). Why?
This conception and birth is about the one who has no beginning going to where you and I begin – so that he can determine our end.
We literally start as a sperm fertilisers an egg. Jesus has no such start. He has always existed. In Philippians 2:6,7 and 2 Corinthians 8:9 we’re told that Jesus, who is God, has humbly, lovingly, obediently put aside his glory and become poor for our sakes. He does this partly to show us what a human being should be – from the ground up, from the womb onwards. We are made to live and walk with the one who has made us – in open trust, delight and obedience. He shows us godliness in action.
Yet Jesus has also come to confront that which stands between us and him – that which stops us from being godly and makes us the opposite. We are his masterpieces, yet we have trampled his image in us and treated his Lordship with contempt. We are riddled with sin and crippled in our rebellion. The one who could so readily and rightly have come to judge has come instead to save.
So great is Jesus’ love for us - so profound is his identification with us – that he’s willing to be condemned in our place and die on the cross for our sins. As the perfect man, he is the perfect sacrifice for us before his heavenly Father. This is the poverty he was willing to experience so that we can be rich beyond measure. He dies, so that we might live as forgiven men and women - people who walk with him by faith and are ready for the day he does come to judge. (John 5:24-30)
Here is the wonderful yet stark truth of Christmas.
He who entered the womb – was also carried into the tomb. He who knew that most intimate cradle of life – also experienced the very dark room of death – then rose again with an indestructible, resurrected life.
Draw near to Jesus in repentance and faith this Christmas, knowing that he has drawn near to you. He who has no beginning has gone to where you and I begin – so that he can determine our end. He has came to our broken home for awhile – so that we can enter his perfect, heavenly home forever. He has entered our most intimate space for a season - so that we can live with him in his most intimate space for eternity.
That’s worth celebrating.