On rare and memorable occasions, we get bigger by becoming part of something bigger than ourselves. We are no longer just an “I” but a “we.” And not just a crowd of “I’s” who happen to be at the same place at the same time. We’re not just individuals strung together, like lights on a Christmas tree, but more like grains of wheat made into flour and baked into a loaf of bread.
Marriage is something like this. It’s not just two individuals who happen to share the same last name and same address. But, as the Bible says, they become “one flesh.” I am not just a man living with a woman. I’ve become bigger. I have been incorporated into something larger than myself. I have been baked, as it were, into the loaf of marriage.
The one we are now is bigger than the two we were separately.
Something similar happens in military units. The bond between the individual soldiers, as they live together, train together, fight together, and sometimes die together—the heat of those experiences welds them together. They aren’t just a group but a corps. A body. They share a unity that civilians find hard to fathom.
We may not often think about it this way, but this is precisely what’s happening at Christmas. On December 25 we celebrate the birthday of an individual man, to be sure. But we also celebrate all our own birthdays as well.
We Get Bigger at Christmas
Long before he lay in the manger, the Son stood beside the Father as Wisdom, dancing and laughing with delight as the cosmos was made (Prov. 8:30). He was the means whereby the Father brought all creation, including humanity, into being. He is the Word, the Logos, who has now become flesh.
He has not, however, just put on human nature like a shirt and pair of pants, easily stripped off to be a naked God again. No, from the moment of his conception onward, into the everlasting future, God is also human. He made the choice to join our family. Forever. To share our DNA. To become not a superman, but a human, just as we are.
But there’s more. The birthday of this man, who is also God, is humanity’s fresh start. A new kind of genesis. If Adam is the father of the human race, then Jesus is the father of a new human race. This new race is just as human as before, but at the same time—if you’ll permit it—even more human.
“More human” in this sense: in Jesus, we are more like God wants us to be than we were before. We gain more in Christ than we lost in Adam. We are no longer just in the image of God—mirroring him—but in Christ we become incorporated into the man who is himself God. And the result? We get bigger.
God expands us in Jesus, as it were, to become greater in him than we could ever be in ourselves. By myself, I’m just a guy. A creature. A mortal. But in this Godman (theanthropos, as the Greeks put it), I have been incorporated into the corps of God.
Paul says it quite lyrically in one of his letters. It’s easy to miss in some translations. Speaking of Jesus, he writes that “in him the whole fullness [πλήρωμα] of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled [πεπληρωμένοι] in him” (Col. 2:9-10). The two Greek words, one a noun and one a verb, are from the same root. The ESV has captured it well with “fullness” and “have been filled.” We might paraphrase it like this: Jesus, who is God full-bodied, fulfills our humanity by joining us to God in himself. As J. B. Lightfoot puts it, “His πλήρωμα [fullness] is transfused into you by virtue of your incorporation into Him.”
This incorporation is so profound that Paul calls us, the church, the body of Jesus. We’re not “like” the body of Jesus in a “let’s pretend” sort of way. Our intimate communion with Jesus is just as intimate—we might say more intimate—than a head’s communion with its body.
Every Baptism is Christmas
So, if you want to know what God looks like, peer into the manger. There is the face of God. And there also is the face of the first man of a new humanity. His birthday becomes our new birthday. We are born again in him. Our Father carries us to the river of baptism in which we float through a new garden of Eden into this new Adam and a new creation.
Every baptism is Christmas and Christmas is every baptism.
God is thus no longer so hard for us to grasp. He has hair. He has fingers. He has eyes in which God sees us and in which we see God. He has tiny hands that will stretch up to his mother’s breast, merciful hands that touch leprous skin, sacrificial hands that bleed from nails, and loving hands that baptize us and feed us week after week at the altar. When he touches us, we touch God.
Long ago, Athanasius wrote that “the renewal of creation has been the work of the self-same Word that made it in the beginning,” (On the Incarnation 1:4). If you want something done right, do it yourself. So God did. He through whom all our birthdays came to be has come to give us a new birthday, a new creation, in him.
Merry Christmas—God is one of us.