BY CHAD BIRD
With her iPhone, Mary snapped a pic of Jesus in the manger, chose the Clarendon filter, and posted it to her Instagram account. It took awhile. Bethlehem’s Wi-Fi was spotty. But it finally uploaded.
Two hours later, it had 24 likes. Three of her friends had commented, “He’s so adorable!” Two said, “OMG, how cute!” And one gushed, “The most beautiful baby ever!”
But they were all lying.
If Isaiah had been around, he’d have commented, “There’s no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
Prophets aren’t big of flattery or social etiquette. If you accept a friend request from one of them, best prepare yourself for the cold, hard truth.
“One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making,” Frederick Buechner reminds us, “is the attempt to be more spiritual than God.” I would add: and more sentimental.
We like to spoon sugar onto our theology. Sweeten things up. And Christmas is the most saccharine time of the year.
That’s why we need salty prophets. That’s also why we need salty songs. So take a break from the sugar-laden “Away in a Manger” and replay a rather unlikely Advent song from the 1990’s: Joan Osborne’s salty song, “One of Us.”
Just a Slob Like One of Us
“What if God was one of us?” she sings, “Just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus, tryin' to make his way home?”
What if God were like my first roommate in college, whose side of the dorm room was littered with dirty socks, Whataburger wrappers, and overdue library books?
What if God were like most teenage boys, with zits, bad body odor, and a few crooked teeth?
What if God were an average height, average weight, average skin color Jew from the first century who looked just like a million other people?
What if God were one of us—who burped and farted, snored and woke up with morning breath, got sleepy and grumpy, and didn’t always make his bed. What if God were a slob like one of us? Fat like one of us? Ugly like one of us? Bald like one of us?
A Strikingly Ordinary Incarnation
The striking beauty of the incarnation is the unstriking ordinariness of it all. Were if not for the angels, no one besides Mary and Joseph would have known God was born that night. Were it not for his miracles and mighty speech, no one would have paid any attention to this average Joe named Jesus.
Because he was one of us. God with thirty-two teeth, two hairy legs, and one belly button. God with a personality that was sometimes subdued and withdrawn, sometimes wild and unpredictable, sometimes humorous and sly. But God with a heart that was always beating to the rhythm of a love song for sinners.
If you want to know what God looks like, what he acts like, what he thinks like, then look no further than Jesus. Everything you need to know about God is in him. If you have other questions, don’t bother asking them. He’s the only answer you’re going to get.
God is a man. God is human. God was born of a woman. God ate and drank, slept and awoke, prayed and worked, taught and shared, died and rose. All for us.
What if God were one of us? Well, he is. Immanuel, God-with-us. The God whom we couldn’t have picked out of the crowd, but whose unseen heart was crowded with a love that was anything but ordinary.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.