Our town has a beautiful nativity scene on the front lawn of the courthouse. It truly is impressive. As I walked up closer, I sort of chuckled and commented on the blonde-haired blue-eyed Jesus in the manger. No, the Bible doesn’t describe Jesus’ outward appearance so we can’t say for sure what He looked like. However, most would agree that He was more likely to appear Arab rather than a blonde-haired blue-eyed European.
Later as I was thinking about our day, I thought to myself, “How fitting and poignant. A baby Jesus made in our own image.”
We love to make Jesus into our own image. He hates the same things we do, dresses the way we do, has the same political beliefs, and has the same enemies. He hates it when the local Wal-Mart cashier wishes us “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” at this time of year. He smiles down fondly at us as we make laws against other people’s sins, while He hands out unlimited grace for our own sins of choice.
No, we have no problem following this Jesus that we’ve made into our own image.
But the Jesus Who was born in a manger over 2000 years ago is much more difficult to follow.
The Jesus of the Manger, Who was born into scandal and scorn from the religious folks. He was born homeless. An outcast. The King of Kings entered this world via a dirty, feces-covered stable. And of all the people God could’ve chosen to announce His Son’s arrival to, whom did He choose? Shepherds. Some of the lowest of the low in Jewish society. They lived with their sheep year-round in the fields, so they stank of sheep and their own filth. Outcasts. And then there were the magi. They were not kings, as the old hymn portrays. They were magi. Mystics. Pagans. Traveling from a foreign land to follow the star that their prophecy foretold would light the way to the Son of God. Pagans. Immigrants. Outcasts.
The Jesus of the Manger is the Savior of the homeless and the immigrant. He is the Savior of the poor, the cold and the underfed. He is the Savior of the prisoner and the tortured. The tax collector and the prostitute. The drug addict and the thief. The outcasts.
The Jesus of the Manger is the radical Lord of the upside down Kingdom of God, where the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Where those who make peace are above those who wage war. Where enemies are loved and the poor are blessed. Where the wisdom of this world is foolishness.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” – Luke 4:18