“I’ll be back soon,” a World War II soldier told his wife before leaving her and their infant son. Five years of war and fighting went by. The young mother would show her boy a portrait of the soldier and say, “See, that’s your daddy. One day he’s going to come home.” In reality, she didn’t know what to expect.
One morning the boy said, Mommy, wouldn’t it be great if Daddy would just step out of the picture frame?”
In a sense that’s what God did 2000 years ago. As part of His eternal plan, He stepped out of heaven and became a man so you and I could look at Jesus and say, “That’s what God looks like.”
The apostle John described the stepping out, “The Word became flesh and lived among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus made His dwelling among us. He camped out in our midst. He moved into our neighborhood. It is as though we were looking at God through one of those snowy glass balls and couldn’t clearly see God, so Jesus stepped out of the encasement and took up residence on this planet so we could better understand and know God.
On the first Christmas some 2000 years ago, God came to earth to live among us. The human mind is boggled by that. Even more unexpected is the first picture we see. No flaming chariots brought God into the world, and no royal entourage greeted Him. God entered the world as a helpless baby with a feeding trough as His bed. Why? So we would better understand Him and know Him.
Remember the story of the little girl who was frightened at night during a thunderstorm. She cried out to her Daddy, “Help me.”
Her Daddy said, “Honey, God loves you and will take care of you.”
Another bolt of lighting and clap of thunder caused the girl to cry out again, “Daddy!”
Her Daddy gave her the same response, “Honey, God loves you and will take care of you.”
The storm raged again and the frightened girl yelled again.
Her Daddy’s response was the same.
But the girl replied, “Daddy, I know that God loves me, but right now I need someone with skin on.”
When Jesus stepped out He was love with skin on. He didn’t just talk about love, He loved. He didn’t just preach on forgiveness. He forgave. He didn’t just proclaim the necessity of justice and righteousness. He attacked the unrighteous institutions of His day. He didn’t start a Bible school. He invited people to live with Him twenty-four hours a day. He became flesh. He was God’s love with skin on.
When Jesus stepped out He came from God. This is important. Jesus was not some self-appointed religious leader seeking to make a buck off of helpless and hopeless people. He was God’s son, His emissary, His flesh and blood coming to this sin-stained planet on behalf of the Father.
Some years ago, I used to visit a woman at the nursing home. Nursing homes have improved greatly in recent years. But this facility was one of those homes that had a foul stench. The garbage cans were always overflowing. The help was less than cordial. Hattie had once been a brilliant teacher; even at 87 she retained more wit than most of us ever get.
Our visits were genuine and stimulating. As her pastor, I was one of her few contacts with the outside world. Of course there were a few church people who visited. Most of her family lived far away and rarely visited. Curious, one day I asked her, “Why do you always want to see me?”
“Because you come for God.”
This answer helped me understand the function of pastor in a new and profound way. Maybe she liked me as a person, but primarily for her, I was a representative of God in a way no one else could be.
In like manner, when Jesus visited this planet there was a stench from the sin that pervaded the place. The garbage of humanity was strewn everywhere. The care of people’s souls was left undone. And then Jesus came. He came as God’s representative. He came bearing not only the love of God, but also the authority of God.
But, why? Why did Jesus do it? Why did He step out of the glory and splendor of heaven to come to a forsaken and condemned planet? The answer is simple, yet, it boggles the mind.
Jesus stepped out because He just had to.
A little girl came to tell her Daddy she loved him. Her father was in the den, in his easy chair, reading the newspaper. “Daddy, I love you!” the little girl blurted out. With the paper still in front of him, the father mumbled, “I love you, too.” The little girl, somewhat disappointed with this half-hearted response, jumped in the middle of her daddy’s lap, gave him a kiss and a hug and exclaimed, “I love you Daddy, and I just had to do something about it.”
Jesus loved us so much that the comforts of heaven could not distract Him, the walls of heaven could not encase Him, the voices of the angels could not dissuade Him, the power of deity could not hold Him. He had to come. He could do no other. He stepped out of the heavenly portrait to take His place in a dirty, faded, and mangled earthly photograph.
And when Jesus stepped out He touched us at our point of need. Into this earthly existence He came bearing the gifts of His heavenly home. He was earthly in guts but was heavenly in grace. While we deserve justice and punishment, Jesus granted us favor and mercy.
Remember the picture when Jesus came upon the lepers, men who had probably not been touched by anyone who was whole for many years? Before Jesus healed them, He stepped out of His comfort zone and touched the lepers who had been so untouchable before.
Do you remember the little old stingy Zacchaeus whom his community despised and hated as a tax collector, as a representative of the Roman oppression in their town? Jesus, immediately upon entering that community, stepped out of popular etiquette and looked up and saw Zacchaeus hiding in the tree and said, “Zacchaeus, I’m coming to your house for dinner today.”
Remember the woman at the well in Samaria? She went to the well at the hottest point of the day, because she couldn’t bear the scorn of the other women in town who looked down upon her in shame because of her immoral lifestyle. Jesus stepped out of the cultural traditions and asked her for a drink of water and then turned and offered her the living water.
Remember Jesus and the children? The disciples thought of the children as pests, and they were shooed away. Jesus stepped out of accepted “religious leader” behavior and said, “No, no, let the little children come to me.” Do you remember what He did? He didn’t just reach down and pat them on the head. He reached out and scooped them up and hugged them.
Throughout all of Jesus’ time on this earth, and even today, He steps out to meet people at their point of need. He is just that way. He is a man of grace. He demonstrates it over and over again.
And when Jesus stepped out He was real. John says that Jesus was also full of truth. The word “truth” literally means “that which is open to view, that which is unconcealed, that which is transparent.” I especially appreciate Moffat’s translation of this verse. He translates this word as “reality,” that Jesus was full of grace and reality. Do you hear what he’s saying? Jesus was real — the most real person who had ever lived before that time, who was living then, and who has ever lived since. When Jesus stepped out He was real.
Have you noticed that there is a surrealism about Christmas? We have come to believe in the Nike commercial that says “Image is Everything.” We have created this image of Christmas as bright lights and missing the reality of the Light of the World. We have created this image of Christmas as buying and receiving gifts and have missed the reality of the Giver of Life. We have created this image of Christmas with parties and social gatherings and have missed the reality of the baby born in the manager. Christmas is not a surrealistic image of what life might be like; it is the reality of the one called the Christ who stepped out to show us what life really is.

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