Addison Leach used to talk about a father and young son, playing ball together. Dad helps him learn to cup his hands, and hold them together, and gently encourages his son as he tosses him the ball underhanded. All of a sudden, the little boy drops the ball, which rolls down the lawn and into the busy street. Acting impulsively, as three year olds are prone to do, the little boy runs to get it. He is about to step into the street in front of a car when the father races down, using all of his energy and strength, and at the last possible second, grabs his son, and pulls him to safety. That father has actually displayed two kinds of being. First, he has condescended to live on the boy’s level, play ball at the boy’s speed, act as he acts, for the purpose of fellowship with his son. Second, for the purpose of saving his son, he exerts everything he has to pull him out of danger.
That’s the story of the incarnation, when Jesus “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Eternal God condescended to live as a man. Every now and then, we saw the eternal attributes of God displayed in Jesus. Like the time when Jesus was asleep in the boat with His disciples during a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee. He was asleep because he was tired. The disciples awakened Jesus, afraid for their lives. He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and they immediately died down. What is this? Tired yet omnipotent! Here Jesus’ human nature completely hid his mighty power until that omnipotence broke forth with a sovereign Word from the Lord of heaven and earth.
In order to submit to his Father’s will and save sinners like you and me, Jesus had to become a man himself. Years ago my brothers and I used to set out rabbit gums, wooden boxes with a trap door; the animal would smell the bait, enter the box, hit a stick that was connected to the door and the trap would slam shut. Every morning before school I would run down in the woods and check my traps. I caught exactly one rabbit in all those years. They’re just too smart. I caught dozens of possums because, well, they’re not known for their brainery. Why do you think there’s so much free possum meat on the road? Let’s suppose my heart goes out to these poor critters and I decide to act in order to save the possums. I figure the only way to save the whole possum race is to become one. I somehow add to my human essence the essence of possum (you won’t find that fragrance at Belks), and I come in the likeness of a possum. I travel down, way down to possum land, where those critters live. I would probably find most of them waiting by the side of the road, watching for cars to come so they can run out in front of them. And I would go to them and speak possum to them, pleading with them to change their ways. Of course, in keeping with the truth of the Gospel, I would have to offer my life as a perfect sacrifice for them.
Look, even if I could become a possum, I wouldn’t want to. But listen, friends. However great the distance from manhood to possumhood might be, it cannot compare to God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. He came to die so that you and I might live. There is no greater Christmas present than that.
Have you received that gift yet?