The Psalms often speak of God’s love and concern for people. In one place a psalmist says:

Why should the wicked revile God?
why should they say in their heart, “You do not care”?
Surely, you behold trouble and misery;
you see it and take it into your own hand. (Psalms 10:13-14, BCP)

The writer affirms that God not only sees what happens to us but that God gathers our woes into his hand and pulls them close to him. God wants to be involved in our trials and travails; God is moved by events in our lives because God cares. It is God’s nature to love and this love blossoms into compassion. Our trouble and misery aren’t forced into God’s hand; God chooses to reach out and take them.

Throughout the Old Testament we read of God acting to be closer to people and to bring people closer to God. In the law (Torah), the prophets, and other writings we are told of God’s work to bring us closer. The building of the temple in Jerusalem is one of the high points of this story. David planned, and Solomon built, a house for God’s presence in Israel. God, who cannot be contained in any building, accepts the temple as a place for God’s presence. (1 Kings 8,9). The temple is God in Israel’s midst; it is a place for God’s eyes and heart (1 Kings 9:3).

Despite God’s presence in the temple, and God’s words through prophets, the people moved away from God. We read the results of disobedience in 2 Kings and other books. One result of the disobedience is that the temple was destroyed. But the destruction of the temple and the punishments for disobedience did not negate God’s care and concern. God still desired to be close to the people and for the people to be close to God. God’s desire did not abate.

The best way the psalmist had to tell us of God’s caring is by saying that our trouble and misery are taken into God’s own hand. God watches from the heavens and reaches out to us. Later writers of scripture have a newer, and more sublime, way of speaking of God’s love and concern for us: “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” (John 1:14, NRSV) In that short phrase John the evangelist revises the psalmist’s statement. God had reached out a hand (repeatedly); God had accepted the temple as a place for God’s eyes and hearts; God had spoken through prophets; what more shall God do to be close to us? God shall come and live among us. The way to be closer to us was to become one of us, so the Word, which was in the beginning, and was with God, and was God, came to live with us as one of us. (John 1:1)

This is how God came closer to us: God the Son became flesh and lived a human life. Jesus was born, grew up, loved, laughed, cried, made friends, had his heart broken, grieved, suffered, and died. This was a human life lived by the Son of God, the Word made flesh. These human experiences, the trials, the thrills, the joys, and the pains, were not just put into God’s hand. They went into Jesus’ heart – God’s heart. In the New Testament we learn that God, not being content to take our misery into his hand, instead took it into his heart. The heart of Jesus, the heart of a man, is also entry into the heart of God.

God wants to be close to us, and wants us to be close to him. There was a gulf between God and us. We could not bridge the gulf so God bridged it for us. Why would God do this? There is nothing we can add to God, the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient creator and sustainer of the universe. Let’s face it – God does not require us. The Word became flesh not because God needed the experience and not from curiosity about human life but because God loves us.

God shared in our life so that we may share in God’s life. This is the meaning of the incarnation: God is love, and that love covers all of creation, including, perhaps especially, us humans. The mystery of the incarnation is the mystery of God loving us and longing to be ever closer to us, and wanting us to be closer to God. This is what we celebrate in the Nativity.

Merry Christmas!