I work part time at a church supply store, and when I was standing behind the counter yesterday, an elderly woman with a portable shopping cart walked in to look at a gold and white Star of Bethlehem banner hanging in the window.
She stood gazing up at the star for a few moments, and then walked up to the counter. I was expecting her to ask me about the price of the banner or to help her find a Christmas gift in the store. Instead, she told me she had been listening to a radio show the night before, and the host talked about how the baby Jesus had to learn how to crawl and walk just like us. “He even stubbed his toe,” the woman said in wonderment.
She continued to stand at the counter, contemplating what she had just told me. My coworker and I stood there, affirming her profound but simple reflection. After a few moments passed, I asked her if I could help her find anything else. “No, I just came in to look at that banner.” Then she turned and headed slowly toward the door.
I stood behind the counter watching after her, letting her message sink in. She came in to look at our merchandise, but God used her to deliver an important message.
And what I heard from the elderly woman yesterday was a reminder that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. He was the Word made flesh, the Son of God, Emmanuel (God with us). And he also came from humble beginnings. He was born in a manger to a peasant woman with animals standing around him, doing what animals do. The smell of warm hay and animal smells mingling surely were there too. From Scripture, we also know that Jesus worked as a carpenter until he was thirty. Then he began his life of public ministry, proclaiming the good news and healing the sick until he was nailed to the cross. He rose from the dead, in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He conquered death!
It is a mystery to grasp that he was God in the flesh—that he was both fully human and fully divine. He felt everything we feel, learned everything we’ve had to learn, and suffered in all the ways we suffer. God gave us his only-begotten Son so we could have an example to follow, so that we could be saved.
As we approach Christmas—the day when we celebrate Jesus’ birth—let us reflect on the meaning of Emmanuel, God with us.
Lord, help me to grasp that you were fully human and fully divine. Help me to understand this mystery and all that it means for me in my life today.