Why a Child?

by Mike McKinniss


Ami Cries” by clappstar under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Over dinner earlier this month, my inquisitive wife asked a good question: “Why did Jesus have to come as a baby?”

Astutely, I pressed for more. “Wha?”

She forged ahead, despite me. “What I mean is, why couldn’t Jesus have just supernaturally appeared as a grown man and done his thing? Why did he have to be born like every other child?”

There are any number of responses, none of which were coming to me. I mean, I know Jesus’ humanity and the nature of his birth have kept theologians employed for centuries. But I’m no theologian and I’ve only got 600 words to spend on this post.

Still, I’m mindful that as we swipe our Google calendars to 2017, with all the resolutions and fresh hope that typically accompany a new year, there is one particular lesson from the infant birth of Christ that may be helpful for us.

So I gathered myself and responded, “I think it would have been out of character for God to have sent Jesus to earth as a grown man.”

I’m perfectly aware that the Lord often does things allofasudden. I’ve had enough experience of God’s miraculous goodness bursting into my life and others’ to know that what we term supernatural events seem to explode unforeseen into reality—an instantaneous healing, an unsolicited cash gift just when the bill is due or some other miracle. I’m sure the ten plagues felt to the Egyptians like they came out of nowhere. Ask Lazarus if he anticipated his resurrection.

Nevertheless, the more common modus operandi of the Divine is subtlety.

To wit: When the Lord sought to respond to the utter depravity of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), he beckoned a solitary couple and swore to them a nation. And that couple produced a single heir of promise. Abraham is subtle.

Mutatis mutandis, the church: Jesus gathers a motley band of just twelve, which then lessens to eleven, and he commissions them to extend his kingdom mission throughout creation. The Great Commission starts with a small group.

Jesus expressed the Lord’s character himself in a parable.

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Mt. 13:31-32).

The God of Christmas is a God of small beginnings. You see, it was perfectly natural for the Father to have his Son come screeching into the world like everyone else. The Christ child is a seed tossed into the earth, allowed the time to germinate and sprout long before it becomes a full fledged God-man.

This ought to be good news for us as we emerge from our holiday stupor into the hard realism of the new year. The Lord is likely up to big things in your life. There’s no reason to doubt that. But God’s big things often begin like a baby born to two poor parents, given a feeding trough for a crib, and welcomed by shepherds.

And God bless those shepherds; they had enough faith to take to heart the seed-child they saw Christmas night. The question is: Will you, like those shepherds, rejoice at the helpless newborn before you?

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