December 24, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – John 1:14; Hebrews 4:15 (NRSV)
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
Merry Christmas! At Christmas we celebrate the coming of God as a human being. The Incarnation makes salvation possible, which is amazing and wonderful. But it also shows us that God understands us from the inside. God knows what it’s like to be human. God knows what it’s like to be you. God gets it!
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Today is Christmas Day, the first of twelve days in which Christians traditionally celebrate the birth of Christ. We marvel at the fact that God entered this world, not as a mighty superhero or indestructible demigod, but as a small, vulnerable baby. This was the beginning of God living among us as a human being, one who was fully God and also fully human.
As I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of Christ’s birth, I am reminded once again of my high school track coach, John Barnes. (I have written about Coach Barnes in Life for Leaders once before, I believe.) I was on the track team at Glendale High School during the 1970s as a hurdler, high jumper, and shot putter. I wasn’t great at any of these events, but I was good enough to score some points for my team.
Those of us on the track team were intensely loyal to Coach Barnes for many reasons. He was a phenomenal athlete, a former collegiate champion who represented the United States in the 800-meter race in the 1952 Olympic games in Helsinki, Finland. But Mr. Barnes wasn’t obsessed by his own greatness. He wanted to make us the best athletes we could be.
My favorite memories of Mr. Barnes are of times I ran with the cross-country team. I was not an accomplished distance runner, mind you, but Mr. Barnes allowed me to join the cross-country guys in order to get a good workout. Talk about a workout! The typical run was six to eight miles long, much of it on fire roads in the local hills. And some of those hills were very steep. We called one of them “Puke Hill” for good reason.
So, there I’d be, on a hot fall afternoon, struggling up a ridiculously steep hill, trying not to lose my lunch. And who was right there with me? Mr. Barnes! So when he’d yell, “C’mon, Roberts! You can make it! Keep pumping your arms!” he was huffing and puffing just like I was. In his 40s, Mr. Barnes was still a superior athlete, but even he felt plenty of pain on Puke Hill.
There was something about the fact that Coach Barnes was experiencing what I was, feeling the pain I was feeling, gasping for breath as I was gasping, that bonded me to him. I knew he understood. And I knew he was with me, not just in spirit, but in body and in heart. That sparked in me great loyalty and, yes, even love.
I expect you can guess why I think of Mr. Barnes at Christmastime. What he did as a coach mirrors in a small but touching way that God did through Jesus. God could have remained safely up in heaven, sending orders down on stone tablets or through thundering prophets. But God chose a very different way to reveal himself to us. God became human, truly and fully human, in Jesus. How amazing!
This means that God understands from the inside what it’s like to be a helpless baby, a curious toddler, an energetic child, a developing teenager, a hard-working craftsman, and a small business owner. God knows what it’s like to be a son, brother, friend, and neighbor. God knows what it feels like to laugh and cry, to rejoice and grieve, to hope and hesitate.
The good news of Christmas has many dimensions. Ultimately, of course, the birth of Jesus makes possible the saving power of his death. The Incarnation, that is, the Word of God made flesh, paves the way for salvation through the cross. But, alongside this glorious and essential truth, the Incarnation also means that God understands. When we struggle, when suffer, when we are tempted, when we are sorrowful, our God gets it. God also gets it when we celebrate, smile, and embrace (see John 1:14 and Hebrews 4:15).
This means, dear friend, that God gets you. God not only loves you with a love that will not let you go, but also understands you, knows you, and has deep compassion for you. God’s incarnational empathy incites within us grateful loyalty, deep love, and joy unspeakable.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come . . . for the world . . . including you! Hallelujah!
What aspects of Christmas give you the most joy?
How does the idea that God understands you “on the inside” affect you? What do you think about this? What do you feel?
As you go through this day, remind yourself that because of Christmas, God understands you in a deep way.
Gracious God, we praise you today with wonder and joy. How amazing it is that you chose to become human in Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate! How marvelous that you did this for us as an expression of your grace and mercy!
Thank you, God, for understanding me in my humanity. Thank you, not just for “getting” me, but also for loving me. Thank you for your compassion and care.
On this Christmas Day, we praise you with grateful elation, both amazed and humbled by what you have done for us in Christ. All praise be to you! Hallelujah! Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: In the Beginning Was the Word (John 1:1-18)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.