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Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.”
This may not seem like the first Christmas bible verse that comes to your mind (it wasn’t referenced by Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” though if I know Linus’ theology, I am sure he had it in his notes), but this verse tells us a great deal about the incarnation, God in the flesh. Jesus entered this world not in some superman suit, but in a coat of flesh. That’s important to me because it reminds me that the God we serve is not a God who is not cold and impervious to our struggles, but we have a God who took upon Himself our flesh, our weakness, our humanity. In other words, we have a God who understands.
How does He understand? Simply, He knows because He has experienced it Himself and because He has experienced it, He can empathize with our weakness. As a child, I suffered from Tourettes Syndrome and I had a terrible stuttering problem. I got picked on a great deal but one kid really made my life miserable. When I was in fifth grade, this kid was nonstop in his humiliation of me by making fun of my stuttering and Tourettes. It was always bad but it was at its worse during a basketball practice where in front of everyone (including a girl I had a crush on) he began to make fun of me and would not stop. I started to argue with him but my stuttering got worse, which made me look that much worse. I can’t tell you how much that hurt.
Two things went through my mind, first was taking the basketball and placing it upside his head and the second was wishing he knew what it was like to open your mouth and not have the words come out, to have other people out of impatience finish your sentences for you, and to know the overwhelming fear of simply being called on to read in class. If he knew, then he wouldn’t say those things. He’d understand. But the boy didn’t stutter, he didn’t understand, and he couldn’t relate to my anguish and despair.
On the night that He was betrayed, Jesus made a statement that we often overlook. As he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemene, He came to His disciples who we sleeping and told them to pray, “For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” How did He know? It’s because He was in the flesh.
You see, this is what Christmas is about. It’s about the word being made flesh! It’s about God being with us, and being one of us. So, pinch your skin…and let it sink in that the God of this universe once wore it.
(Barry Robinson is the pastor of Williamstown United Methodist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 859-823-5171.)