Babies are needy, aren’t they? From the moment they are born they need to have everything done for them. They need to be fed, held, burped, bathed and changed. They need to be carried from place to place. They need to be constantly monitored so they don’t put anything in their mouths they shouldn’t. They need to be checked on in the middle of the night. They need to be soothed and calmed and entertained and distracted and rocked to sleep. Babies are needy in every sense of the word. At Risen Savior, many of us have recently been blessed to experience that neediness first hand, and we pray with and for all who are hoping and praying for a baby of their own. But in the end, no one is ever really ready for the challenge of raising another human being. Babies, with their 24/7/365 neediness, change the lives of their parents forever.
So can you imagine being in Mary and Joseph’s shoes 2000 years ago in a small village in the Middle East? They weren’t married and weren’t living together, but an angel appeared to them to tell them that Mary would be having a child. They were not expecting this. They were not planning for this. They hadn’t read the books, they didn’t have the nursery ready. They were not ready for a baby. And this wasn’t going to be just any baby, this was going to be the Son of the Most High. (Luke 1:32) Forget the pressures and anxieties the parents of regular babies have to deal with; how were these two supposed to care for God’s Son? What special care would need to be taken with the only truly perfect baby ever born? Of course, while these and many other thoughts and concerns may have been racing through Mary and Joseph’s minds, the truth was that they needed this baby much more than he needed them. They may have been his parents, but he was their Savior. The same is true today: we need this baby more than he will ever need anything from us.
One of the things that sets this baby apart from any other is that He wasn’t born into this world to be taken care of; he was born so that he could take care of us. He wasn’t born to be cuddled and swaddled and held; he was born so that he could take and hold us in the palm of his hand. He wasn’t born so that others could satisfy all his needs; he was born to satisfy our every need.
If Jesus hadn’t been born, we would be in a very uncomfortable situation right now. In fact, it would be worse than uncomfortable; it would be downright terrifying. Because while God created us; when we were born into this world we weren’t born into his family. In fact, it was the exact opposite – we were born outside God’s family. We did not know him, believe in him, trust him – and we didn’t want to. According to the Bible, we were born hating God, despising God, denying God – and there was nothing we could do about it.
All of which means that our lives were hopeless right from the beginning. If someone isn’t part of God’s family, there’s no hope for that person’s future. God says that if someone is not part of his family he does not listen to their prayers. (Isaiah 59:2) God says that if a person is not part of his family he can’t expect that things will work out for his good. (Romans 8:28) God says that if someone is not part of his family, their sins are not forgiven, they are still guilty in his eyes. (Psalm 34:15-16) God says that if someone is not part of his family, they won’t spend eternity with him in heaven. (John 14:6) And when we were born, we were not part of God’s family. We were in big trouble. We needed serious help. We needed someone to do something.
So God did. God didn’t want us to remain outside of his family. He didn’t want us to live our entire lives as his enemies and die as his enemies and go to hell where God’s enemies go. And so when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. At just the right time – when everything in history was just right according to God’s eternal plan – God sent his Son into this world. His Son was born from a human mother just like we were. He was subject to His Father’s laws just like we are. All so that Jesus could redeem us. That’s a really important word if you want to really understand Christmas and understand the Bible. Redeem means to buy back for a price. Jesus was born as a baby from a human mother under the law of God so that he could redeem us – buy us back. And the price of our redemption? His precious blood shed on an ugly cross.
Do we really have to bring that up during a Children’s Christmas service? Do we really have to talk about something as gory and unpleasant as death by crucifixion at Christmas, which is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Yes, we do. Blood and the cross are essential to the Christmas story because Christmas is much more than a big birthday party where everyone gets gifts except the birthday boy. Christmas marks the beginning of Jesus’ work to redeem us. He was born to suffer. He was born to bleed. Jesus was born as a little baby in Bethlehem so that 33 years later, six miles north in Jerusalem, he could be nailed to a cross. Jesus came into this world so he could take our place – so that he could keep all of God’s laws perfectly and give us the credit – and so that he would be the one that God treated like his enemy, the one who didn’t belong in God’s family, the one who suffered the hell God’s enemies deserve. That’s exactly what happened. Jesus was born for you. He lived for you. He bled for you. He died for you. He endured hell for you. He rose from the grave for you. And because he did that, you have been redeemed. You have been bought back.
But because of Jesus, you’re even more than that – you are now an adopted member of God’s family. Listen again: when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. The result of Jesus’ birth is our adoption into God’s family. No one ever would have imagined that this is how salvation works: God sends his only Son to die for his enemies so that through faith his enemies might become his sons. It’s breathtaking. It’s incomprehensible. It is the miracle of God’s grace and the real story of Christmas. The best part is: we didn’t do a thing – God gives it to us as a gift. Through faith that Jesus has done it all we will enjoy all of the wealth and glory and perfection of the paradise God has prepared for us one day soon.
But, that might not happen for a while. The inheritance is promised and guaranteed, but it’s not ours yet. In the meantime, as we continue to live on this less-than-perfect earth and deal with less-than-perfect people in our less-than-perfect lives, God promises to care of each of us like one of his own. He will watch over us and guide us and give us everything we need. And there are plenty of things we need, aren’t there? From God’s perspective, we are still babies. We need food and clothing, we need work and rest, we need a place to live and family to love. And sometimes we comfort and strength and peace and sometimes we need guidance and sometimes we need discipline. Daily we need a whole lot of forgiveness. And our Father gives it to us every time. No matter how rebellious we may be, no matter how disobedient and stubborn and annoying and needy, your Father continues to treat you as a beloved member of his family.
Because you are. The proof is here in God’s Word: when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. God would not have sent his Son into this world if he did not love you. Jesus would not have lived, bled, suffered and died if he did not love you. The Holy Spirit would not have put in the time and effort to bring you to faith through the Gospel if he did not love you. But God did and he does. And it all started with this baby. A baby born in a barn. A baby born to an unmarried couple. A baby who lived and died and rose from the dead. We need this baby because we need this Savior. He is ours, and we are his. Not just today, but now and forever. Amen.