Tonight we are here to celebrate the birth of our Savior. We are also here to ponder the mystery of the incarnation. And mystery it is. Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand. Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand, Christ our Lord to earth descending, comes our homage to demand. It is difficult for us to comprehend God becoming man. We tend to present Jesus as if he was born a baby without tears or diapers, perhaps even arriving in the manger as if he was dropped by a stork, delicately drifting back and forth as a falling leaf lazily carried along by gravity and the gentle breeze. While such images are nice, they are not likely reality.
Martin Luther poignantly put it this way: “Think, women, there was no one there to bathe the baby. No warm water, nor even cold. No fire, no light. The mother was herself midwife and maid. The cold manger was the bed and the bathtub. Who showed the poor girl what to do? She had never had a baby before. I am amazed the little one did not freeze. Do not make of Mary a stone. It must have gone straight to her heart that she was so abandoned. She was flesh and blood, and must have felt miserable – and Joseph too – that she was left in this way, all alone, with no one to help, in a strange land in the middle of winter. Her eyes were moist even though she was happy, and aware that the baby was God’s Son and the Savior of the world. She was not stone. For the higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender they are.
Let us then meditate upon the nativity just as we see it happening in our own babies. I would not have you contemplate the deity of Christ, the majesty of Christ, but rather his flesh. Look upon the baby Jesus. Divinity may terrify a man. Inexpressible majesty will crush him. That is why Christ took on our humanity, save for sin, that he should not terrify us but rather that with love and favor he should console and confirm.
Behold Christ lying in the lap of his young mother . . . Look at the Child, knowing nothing. Yet all that is belongs to him, that your conscience should not fear but take comfort in him. Doubt nothing. Watch him springing in the lap of the maiden. Laugh with him. Look upon this Lord of Peace and your spirit will be at peace. [. . .] You cannot fear him, for nothing is more comforting to the sight of a man than a babe. [. . .] Trust him! Here is the Child in whom is salvation. [. . .] There is no greater consolation given to mankind than this, that Christ became a man, a child, a babe, playing in the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother. Who is there whom this sight will not comfort? Now overcome is the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if you come to judge this gurgling Babe and believe that he is come not to judge you, but to save.”
(From Martin Luther’s Christmas Book)