A great teacher, a historical figure, a wise man, a revolutionary… the descriptions of Jesus go on and on. But if you ask Christians to describe him, there’s one thing that comes to the forefront: Jesus is God himself, come as a human being. That’s what we really believe.
And when we say human, we mean completely and totally human—with a human body, mind, and soul. Jesus wasn’t faking it. He is God himself, but when he came into this world, he did it as a human zygote—then an embryo—then a fetus, and finally a newborn baby. He did all the usual baby things—nursing, burping, and crying. Somebody had to change his diapers. Somebody doubtless had to walk the floor with him at night. He probably had colic. He certainly spit up all over Mary and Joseph. That’s what babies do. That’s what human beings do. And now that God has become a man, that’s what God did.
This is the central miracle of Christianity—that God made himself human. Jesus Christ was and is fully God—he didn’t stop being God, not for a minute—but he is also, now and forever, totally human. He knows what pain is. He knows love, and joy, and sadness, and grief. He has been hungry and thirsty, exhausted and angry, even frustrated at times. He knows what it is to suffer and die. He knows what it is to live—and to rise from the dead, never to die again.
You see, that’s the reason why Jesus became human in the first place—to connect himself to us in a permanent way, so that we, too, can share in his life. When he died on the cross and then rose from the dead, he did it as a real man on behalf of the whole human race, so that through him, we too will conquer death when he returns at the end of the world.
And that isn’t some pretty metaphor. Jesus promised us that “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:38-40).
Jesus has promised that all of us who trust in him will one day rise from the dead just as he did—in our human bodies, but now transfigured, glorified. We will not be angels—we will be human, just as he himself is still human. But there will be no more dying, no more suffering, no disease or pain or grief. God became a human being so that we may become children of God—people who are finally the way he meant humanity to be in all its beauty and perfection. This is what Jesus has promised us, and this is why he joined himself to our human nature.
We call this wonderful fact the “incarnation”—that God has become a human being, our Savior Jesus. That’s why we celebrate Christmas. It is more than just a birthday—it is the greatest miracle that ever happened. Now God is not far away from us, separated as far as heaven and earth. Now God is our kinsman, our relative. And he made this happen because he loves us.