God in a Manger

By. John MacArthur

Many people gladly celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, only to ignore, shun, and reject Him the rest of the year. They don’t mind celebrating the birth of a baby, but they don’t want to hear about the Lord of lords. They sing of His nativity but brazenly reject His authority. They adore Him as an infant but will not pay homage to Him as the God-man. They can tolerate the trappings of Christmas—a manger, shepherds, wise men, and Joseph and Mary—but they cannot bear the advent of God in human flesh. Consequently the world ignores the core of all Christmas truth. And instead of honoring Jesus at Christmas, they are actually mocking Him.

The enemy must love the world’s Christmas celebration. He must revel in the blatant sin and blasphemy and rejection of Christ—all by people who suppose they are celebrating His birth! He must glory in the way people inoculate themselves against the truth of Christ by commemorating His birth with lip service while ignoring the point of it all—that Jesus is almighty God.

The Incarnation

Christmas is not about the Savior’s infancy; it is about His deity. The humble birth of Jesus Christ was never intended to be a façade to conceal the reality that God was being born into the world. But the modern world’s version of Christmas does just that. And consequently for the greater part of humanity, Christmas has no legitimate meaning at all.

I don’t suppose anyone can ever fathom what it means for God to be born in a manger. How does one explain the Almighty stooping to become a tiny infant? It was, of course, the greatest condescension the world has ever known or will ever know. Our minds cannot begin to understand what was involved in God’s becoming a man. We will never comprehend why He who was infinitely rich would become poor, assume a human nature, and enter into a world He knew would reject Him and kill Him.

Nor can anyone explain how God could become a baby. Yet He did. Without forsaking His divine nature or diminishing His deity in any sense, He was born into our world as a tiny infant.

People often ask me if I think Jesus cried, or if He needed the normal care and feeding one would give any other baby. Of course He did. He was fully human, with all the needs and emotions that are common to every human.

Yet He was also fully God—all wise and all powerful. How can both things be true? I don’t know. But the Bible clearly teaches that it is so. In some sense, Jesus voluntarily suspended the full application of His divine attributes. He didn’t give up being God but He willingly gave up the independent use of the privileges and powers that were His as God (Philippians 2:5-8). He chose to subjugate His will to His Father’s will (John 5:30; 6:38). Through all that He remained fully God.

Humanity and Deity

For nearly two thousand years, debate has been raging about who Jesus really is. Cults and skeptics offer various explanations. They say He is one of many gods, a created being, a high angel, a good teacher, a prophet, and so on. The common thread of all such theories is that they make Jesus less than God.

But let the Bible speak for itself. John’s gospel begins with a clear statement that Jesus is God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1-3). Who is “the Word” spoken of in these verses? Verse 14 removes any doubt: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The biblical evidence is overwhelming that this child in the manger was the incarnation of God. For one thing, He was omniscient. John 2:24-25 says that, “Jesus, on His part . . . knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to bear witness concerning man for He Himself knew what was in man.” Nathanael was shocked to discover that Jesus knew all about him before they ever met. It was enough to persuade him that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:48-50). John 4 describes Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. He knew everything about her (John 4:17-19, 29).

He also did the works of God, saying, “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:11). Jesus’ works are convincing proof that He is God. He began His miraculous ministry with a simple act—He created wine at a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). Only God can create. Moreover, He healed people who were hopelessly ill. He gave a blind man eyes. He opened ears that had never heard. He restored withered limbs. He created enough fish and bread to feed thousands. He raised the dead simply by command.

While the glory of the Lord was shrouded by His human form, His power was on display throughout His ministry, bearing abundant witness to His deity. And yet, the world still works hard to deny Christ’s true nature. They’d prefer to keep the baby confined to the manger for all time. But as we’ll see next time, Jesus’ true nature cannot be ignored, suppressed, or concealed.