In the city of Bethlehem there is a church called Church of the Nativity. This church is built on what is believed to be the site of Jesus’ birth. In the basement of this church there is a cave, which is believed to be the stable where Jesus was born. This cave is completely covered with gold and marble; many Christians of various traditions believe it to be a holy place and they come from all over the world to bow down and kiss the marble and gold which cover the cave where Jesus is believed to have been born.
As evangelicals, we do not believe that any one place is holier than any other. We believe that the presence of God is not tied to any one specific piece of real estate, but rather that God is everywhere and that His presence is immediately accessible to any of us regardless of where we are or what we are doing. But haven’t we lost something if we cannot relate to those Christians who bow down and kiss the spot where Jesus is supposed to have been born?
Christianity is a VERY, VERY freaky religion. You think David Koresh and the Branch Davidians were freaky? You think that cult out in Eatonton with all the pyramids and other such things that was in the news a couple of years back is freaky? You think that UFO cult out in California a few years back who believed that there was a spaceship following the comet Hale-Bopp with super-intelligent beings aboard and that they would be taken aboard and taken away if they drank the Kool-Aid was freaky? Well, they don’t have anything on us.
We believe that there is a God who is completely and totally other than us, who is present everywhere in this world and in this universe, and yet at the same time exists independently of and apart from this universe. If the entire universe and every living thing in it were to suddenly vanish, He would just keep on keeping on, as if nothing had ever happened.
We believe that this God created everything in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, everything that we see around us, everything we don’t see, and everything else. Furthermore, He also created each and every one of us. There is nothing in this entire universe that would exist if He did not want it to.
Now doesn’t that blow your mind? Doesn’t that just completely and totally freak you out?
But if all that isn’t enough, we also believe that this God who is completely and totally other than us, came into this world that He created and became one of us. He became a person who walked and talked and ate and lived and moved and breathed and slept, just like us.
Eat your heart out, Rod Sterling!!!!!
In light of that, if there was a spot somewhere in this world where this God-person, this God who is completely and totally other than us who became one of us, was born, breathed his first breath (imagine that–the air of this very world that He created, filling his lungs for the very first time), cried his first cry–the exact same voice that spoke the entire universe into existence, reduced to nothing more than the simple cry of a newborn baby crying because he wants milk or a blanket, because he has a dirty diaper, or because he just wants his mommy…
Which brings to mind the thought: Did the baby Jesus ever experience separation anxiety? Did the baby Jesus ever cry because he wanted his mommy and she wasn’t around? Now think about that. He spoke the entire universe into being. Nothing and no one would exist if He did not want it to. His mommy would never in a million years have existed if not for His creative word. And yet he cries because he wants his mommy?
Did the baby Jesus ever struggle with object permanence? Object permanence is a cognitive milestone which every baby attains at some point during his or her first year of life. Object permanence is the awareness that objects continue to exist even when you can’t see them anymore. Was there ever a point when the baby Jesus did not have this awareness of object permanence? Did this Jesus, who spoke every object in the entire universe into existence, have to learn that objects continue to exist even when you can’t see them anymore, just like every other baby who has ever come into this world?
Those of you who are parents know about the Palmar grasp. Even if you have no earthly idea what the words “Palmar grasp” mean, you have seen this in action many times. The Palmar grasp is a reflex that very young babies have: If you put your finger, a pencil, or some other object into your baby’s open hand, your baby will automatically curl his or her fingers around that object and lock onto it with a death grip.
Did the baby Jesus ever have a Palmar grasp? Was this baby, this Jesus who created all things and who controls all things, ever subject to reflexes which he could not control?
Doesn’t it blow your mind and freak you out to think about such things?
But I digress.
If there was a place where this God-person was born, breathed his first breath, cried his first cry, opened his eyes for the first time to look upon the world that He spoke into existence, a place where his hands and feet touched the earth that He spoke into existence for the very first time as he lay, rolled over, sat up, and eventually learned to crawl and to walk…
Doesn’t it make sense that some Christians would look upon such a place as very special? Doesn’t it make sense that some Christians would be so blown away by the fact that this is the spot where this God who is completely and totally other than us became one of us and was born into our world, and want to mark that spot with gold, marble, and other precious things (being fully aware that even the most precious things on the face of this earth are worth nothing compared to this God who is completely and totally other than us and who became one of us), come to that spot and bow down and kiss it?
Can’t we as evangelicals relate to this in some form or fashion, even though we believe that the presence of God is not tied to any one specific piece of real estate and that there is no place where God is present in ways that He is not present in other places? Can’t we relate to this, just a teeny, tiny bit?
If not, then we as evangelicals have definitely lost something.