Luke: The Significance of God Incarnate as a Baby

manger scene

In August 1994, our son was born. He was so perfect and adorable. His little facial expressions and gestures, his beautiful features and smooth-as-silk skin, delighted us. We could not take our eyes off of him waking or sleeping – he was fascinating. A person who eventually would have a personality and skills and likes and dislikes and ideas and think that some things were funny and some things were sad, was right there in our arms. In this precious little bundle was a whole image-of-God-bearing little man.

About three weeks after his birth, I joined the Durham Choral Society. We spent the fall preparing for our Christmas concert, which included a dozen or more Christmas carols from around the world. So all fall, I took care of this little baby and rehearsed Christmas carols. Mary had a baby, a sweet little Jesus boy, the angels sang “Glory to God in the Highest,” the shepherds ran to tell the news … the Savior has been born as a little baby boy. Just like mine.

During that fall I fell in love with Jesus in a new way. As I cared for my own bambino, I appreciated how beautiful it was that the Son of God became a baby. I appreciated the love that Mary must have had for that baby, as she treasured everything about him – his first smile, his first steps, his beautiful little body – in her heart. 

We can be so thankful that she confided these things to Luke. He heard what Mary remembered. He heard about Elizabeth and her baby recognizing Jesus months before, while both were as yet unborn. He heard about the long journey to Bethlehem and no space in the inn, the stable, the birth. She even told him about the swaddling cloths – she would never forget that, how she wrapped him against the chill of that first night. He heard about the angels and shepherds. Mary remembered. Mary treasured. 

The word “incarnation” means “becoming flesh” – becoming human. The Son of God, who was equal and of the same substance with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, became flesh. Even the greeting that the angel gave to Mary presaged this idea: “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” And He was, in a unique and never-before way. He was in fact within her. The writer of Isaiah centuries before foretold this. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” God with us.

How could God have come among us? He could have come as a brilliant being of such incandescence that we could not gaze at him. He could have come with a war horse and wearing a crown and bearing a sword. But no, instead He came as a baby. A tender, vulnerable, infant who needed feeding and cuddling and protecting. He was incarnate as a human baby boy. Just like my little baby boy.

This, while not a Christmas carol per se, captures this incarnational idea so beautifully:

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
All for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heav’nward by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art God beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship Thee.

Frank Houghton