Soren Kierkegaard, the great Danish philosopher, told the story of a prince who wanted to find a young woman suitable to be his queen. One day while visiting in the local village, he glanced out the windows of the carriage and his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant maiden. During the ensuing days he intentionally arranged to pass by the young lady and soon fell in love. But how could a prince seek the hand of such a young woman?
He could order her to marry him, but even a prince wants his bride to marry him voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a grand horse-drawn carriage, but if he did this he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed with royal splendor.
The prince came up with another solution. He would give up his kingly attire. He moved into the village in the garb of a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time the maiden grew to love him for who he was and because he had first loved her.
That is the essence of the Christmas story. God loved the people He had created, but through their sin and rebellion they had become distant and separated from Him. How could He overcome the barrier their sin had created and bring them back into relationship with Him?
The solution to this dilemma is what we celebrate on Christmas: the Incarnation. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem and laid in the manger, it was God sending His Son to take on humanity and live among us. In the years to come, Jesus would teach us what God’s Kingdom is all about. In His sinless life, He would demonstrate life as it was meant to be lived. In his death on the cross, He would take upon Himself the price of sin that was rightfully ours to pay, breaking down the barrier that separates us from God. And in His resurrection, He conquered sin and opened the door to eternal life for all who follow Him.
That’s what the apostle John described when he wrote: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). That is what Christians call the Incarnation – God with us, among us, so that He can deliver us.
It was in 1891 that Robert Louis Stevenson – author of such classics as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Kidnapped – gave a rather odd gift to the daughter of a friend. This friend, Henry Ide, once joked that Christmas was not the happiest day of the year in his household. His 14-year-old daughter, Annie, had been born on Christmas; she always complained she got cheated out of a separate birthday party.
So Robert Louis Stevenson came up with the idea of giving away his birthday. He drew up a legal document transferring all the “rights and privileges” of his birthday, which fell on Nov. 13, to Miss Annie H. Ide. From that day forward, Annie celebrated her birthday on Nov. 13.
Jesus has given His birthday to you and me, and we celebrate it every Christmas. May this Christmas be a very special one for you, as you celebrate the greatest gift of all: the gift of Jesus.
Michael Duduit is Dean of the College of Christian Studies at Anderson University, and Executive Editor of Preaching magazine. He blogs at michaelduduit.com.