I recently acquired a children’s board book that teaches Christian doctrine. I bought it because it had bright, charming illustrations and I’m a sucker for anything that introduces my children to Jesus. Like learning a second language, I imagine that learning about Jesus as early as possible will set you up for success in the faith later in life.
Board books are for children who are too young to be trusted with real books with delicate pages. And so I read the board book of Christian doctrine to the best candidate in our house: my almost five-year old. It was not well received. He managed to fall in the wide gap between needing an indestructible book and having the mastery of language to articulate a working knowledge of the Trinity.
As I worked my way through the chunky pages, explaining carefully as I went, I began to realize my error (I’ll accept the blame). Propositional truth is simply not the best way to get to know someone and probably one of the least inspiring ways to grow to love someone. Yet, I persisted.
“Jesus has two natures.”
“He has two ways in which he is a person.”
“He’s only wearing a shoe on one foot. Did he lose his other shoe?”
“Apparently, divinity doesn’t need shoes.”
Jesus is fully man and fully God. And the more you study the way this doctrine has been painstakingly articulated throughout the history of the Church, the more you begin to walk on egg shells and hem and haw over your own attempts to describe the central miracle of Christmas. What can I say about the Incarnation? How can I begin to explain that Jesus is God with us?
God has chosen to be known by us. We can see hints of him in the beauty and order of the created world. He places us in families, both natural and adopted spiritual families, and we experience a little bit of God’s love—the love that eternally exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God shows himself in miracles, the divine interruptions that demonstrate his goodness and power. And he has spoken to his people for generations and we treasure those words received in the Holy Scriptures.
But the greatest assurance we have that God wants to be known by us is Jesus. We know him most fully, clearly, and completely because of Jesus. If nature is unclear. If our families fail us. If we can’t recognize God’s miraculous works. If we find Scripture confusing…we have Jesus. His living, breathing presence fills all the gaps in the lesser ways we have may have come to know God.
Jesus is God. I have been taught it my whole life and I am teaching my children to say the same. And none of us can truly put in to words this simultaneously simple and incomprehensible truth. But all that God has done and will do becomes clear for us to see in the life and ministry of Jesus.
God humbles himself and shares in our fragile humanity and yet he retains his omnipotent divinity. And he does all of this in his son Jesus so that we can be healed, renewed, and returned to loving relationship with God. There is nothing I can say about the Incarnation that God hasn’t already communicated to us by sending Jesus. I lack the words or patience to explain this to my children but I will tell them the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection so that together we can marvel this Christmas that God has made himself known to us.