When you hear the name Jesus, what picture pops into your head?
Maybe you envision a famous painting of a Caucasian-looking Jesus that you saw hanging in your church entryway growing up. Maybe you picture him as a Middle Eastern man or as a cartoony image from pop culture. Whatever you envision, Jesus likely appears in your head as an adult.
How often do you picture Jesus as a baby?
I’d wager to guess that outside of December, most people don’t. It seems that Christianity saves focusing on Jesus as an infant for Christmas. His incredible transformation of God to baby gets less airtime during the other 11 months of the year.
Recently, I was blessed to give birth to a baby boy and have been reminded anew how crass and humiliating it is to be a baby. Babies can’t do anything for themselves! I usually like to think about Jesus in all his full-grown might and glory because it is a comfort to me, as I am all too aware of my sinfulness and find so much peace in the conquering work that Jesus did for all of us through his perfect life, death, and resurrection. But as I stare at the squishy newborn face of my son these days, I am humbled to remember how incredibly low Jesus brought himself out of love for us sinners.
I’m humbled that Jesus chose to spend nine months in a human womb. The God who could go anywhere in the universe chose to be cramped into a woman’s uterus and go through all the stages of fetal development.
I’m humbled that Jesus went through the mess and pain of birth. He could have come down to earth in a chariot of fire or a spaceship or with battalions of angels flanking him with power and prestige. But he came in one of the most painful, crude ways possible. And more than that, he was born in a literal barn! No sterile hospital or experienced doctors for Jesus.
I’m humbled that Jesus was so dependent on his imperfect parents, Mary and Joseph. Jesus had created them—but now relied on Joseph for a roof over his head and on Mary to nurse him every two hours. The same God who made all the food we enjoy today limited himself to a diet of only breast milk!
And finally, I’m humbled that Jesus actually inhabited the confines of a human body. My three-week-old son makes all manner of gross noises—burps and toots and hiccups. He can’t control his bowels, can’t talk, can’t walk, and can’t even pick up his own soft little head. He is so limited in what he can do—and Jesus was the same. The God who could see into all eternity could not, as a baby, see past his own mother’s face.
All of this reminds me that Jesus knows deeply what you and I are going through—even what infants and babies in the womb are going through! As it says in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” He knows spiritually and physically what it is like to be in our shoes. No other “god” from any other religion has ever done that!
Jesus sacrificed his power and privilege and home in heaven to come as a perfect substitute for our sinful selves, something that was a sacrifice every moment of his human-bound life. It was a real step down for the Author and Perfecter of our faith to be born into this world as a helpless infant, but I am grateful every day that he was willing to go through that to win us a home in heaven. Thank you, Jesus, for being a baby for us!