The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15 (NIV)
Spring was in the air when I wrote this piece. The sun was shining, the snow banks melting, and 5 degrees Celsius felt like mid summer after what had been a long cold winter. While typing this line the local Christian radio station, Life 100.3, was playing a song with the lyrics, “All things are possible!” It was a word in season. Looking up from my laptop I noticed the small buds on the tips of the skeletal branches of the maple tree in the back yard and gave thanks that it wouldn’t be long until the new life, yet lying dormant in the buds, would begin to unfurl.
New life: I was born on December 4, 1959. My existence began nine months earlier in my mother’s womb. Before that I didn’t exist – though the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be (cf. Psalm 139:16). My story, in respect of my birth, is straightforward. I was conceived, “was made in the secret place” (Psalm 139:15), and entered the world in London, England. The birth of Jesus Christ is similar, yet dissimilar to our births. He was born some two-thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem . . . and yet His existence pre-dated His conception.
When the One who was (and is) immortal became mortal, it presented some difficulties – like where and how do we start telling the Story? Maybe that’s why no two stories of Christ’s birth start in the same place. The Apostle Matthew starts his narrative with a genealogy; tracing the human family line of Jesus back to Abraham. The Apostle Mark kicks off with a prophecy from Isaiah about a messenger who prepares the way for the One who will come. Dr. Luke takes an historical approach, “In the time of Herod king of Judea . . .” (Luke 1:5). John the Beloved pushes back to a time before time when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). And then several lines on says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). And the Apostle Paul begins the story before the beginning, writing that Jesus is, “the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15).
If you wanted the Story to be delineated with a start and a close, it isn’t. God doesn’t fit into our boxes, not in any way, and no less so in respect of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born before He was born, and before that He was! And I think that’s fantastic. The mystery surrounding the birth of Christ, the fact that it’s something bigger and more complex than your birth or mine, makes it extra special. In fact the struggle we have in knowing where to start telling His Story, is good reason to rejoice. After all, it points to the fact that there’s nothing regular about the birth of Christ. It’s extraordinary and supernatural. And because it is, because it’s both like and unlike our stories – because it’s God’s Story – we rejoice!