Whatever one thinks of Christmas, one should start with this: the birth of Jesus proves you didn’t know God like you thought you did.
Of all the miracles recorded in Scripture and the legends carried through traditions–incorrect or otherwise–none of them relayed the idea that the Almighty would become a helpless baby. The Christian tradition insists that He did, and the very act of doing so set off a lifetime of events in which this baby Jesus would confound and confuse what his contemporaries had understood God to be like.
Because this God isn’t the temper-tantric cosmic deity who is just itching for a chance to destroy the world.
This is a God who will make friends with sinners–the very worst of them, it turns out–and verbally berate religious leaders and biblical scholars who used their so-called fear of God to beat people over the head. Tax collectors and whores enter the kingdom of God and find a party waiting for them; Pharisees and scribes found themselves standing outside the celebration, ignoring the father’s pleas to join in the fun.
This is a God who not only cares about justice being done but, in his own crucifixion, allowed Himself to become a victim to injustice–and in so doing, He made reconciliation with His enemies.
It turns out this God isn’t who we thought He was. When he grew up, Jesus insisted that if you had seen him, you had seen the Father. So what did Jesus show us? He showed us that it’s impossible to follow him without a cross on your back–and yet the burden will still be light. He showed us how to repay cursing with blessing and betrayal with forgiveness. He showed us the true intent and meaning of the Scriptures–to love God and your neighbor with your whole self–and that anything less than this is a distortion of the Scriptures we claim to hold so dear.
Jesus insisted that to know what he was like was to know what God was like–and that simple truth has caused the church to rethink everything it knew about God for two thousand years.
Looking at Jesus, though, we can learn something simple and powerful about God: it turns out He likes us a lot more than we thought.