We were made to worship something. We itch to adore and reverence some deity. Every culture (even secular ones) find some object or entity to give reverence to. In ancient times (and even in modern Eastern cultures) this took the form of idols or images or sacred stones/sites. In the modern West, we are no different. We still want to worship something. We just hide our idols in plain sight on movie screens, stages, and Capitol buildings.
Man wants to believe in something transcendent, but he also wants it to be just close enough to manage and have a few of his own fingerprints on it. He wants powerful gods that are, you know, relatable. Which is why all idolatry (whether in the East or West) always becomes self-worship. We come to see in ourselves something worthy of all our attention. We think we’re pretty good, we think we are important, we think we’re quite something. No matter what sort of idol we’re talking about, all idols are really just mirrors to let our proud imaginations adore our own greatness.
But at Christmas we are confronted with the Only True God, the Creator of the World, the Sovereign of the universe, He Who called all things into being by His very word. This God is unseen, invisible (1 Tim. 1:17). But at Christmas He revealed Himself. He did this by taking on human flesh and living amongst us. He was now seen. He was an ordinary human child, born in the ordinary way in which humans are born. Blood, sweat, tears. Labor, contractions, and nervous parents. It’s a picture this world’s seen a thousand times: a mother and father beaming over their firstborn son. Though they didn’t have lodging that night, they made the most of a barn/cave, and so God appeared in human flesh, to be our Savior: Jesus.
Years later, one of Jesus’ disciples wrote this:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.1 John 1:1-3
Notice how important it is to John’s message that this eternal Word was both seen and heard. Jesus was not some StarTrek-like Hologram of God. He wasn’t some trance which a few desert oracles had. Jesus was a man who was God. His disciples had seen Him. Shepherds had seen Him. Wise men had seen him. If we had a time machine, we could go back and see Him, too. You could have even taken a picture of the Christ-child (but in God’s kindness, iPhones weren’t invented then, otherwise we’d have ended up worshiping an Instagram picture of Christ).
In other words, Christmas is a historical event not a sentimental one. So, what was God trying to show us by sending His Son to become a man? We find out when, years after Jesus was born, he shows up to his cousin John’s revival meeting. John saw Jesus and declared what God wants us to see when we see Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29).”