I came across a story about a mother whose child was having trouble falling asleep in the dark. Trying to be a comfort she said, “Oh honey, there’s nothing to fear in the dark and besides, the angels are near you.” To which the child replied, “Mommy, I don’t want angels, I want a skin face.”
I don’t know about you but so often I’m like that child. When my life gets scary and messy and anxiety gets the best of me or when I’m overwhelmed and stressed-out, I need a skin face. Neither theological truths nor lifeless doctrines do me any good. Religious clichés give me no relief. Christian slogans are no help. I find no comfort in being told that there’s a big God out there somewhere. I need a life that speaks my language, feels my feelings, who understands my anxious thoughts; a life that can empathize with me. I need a God I don’t have be afraid of and hide from or be ashamed to be around. I need a God who’s approachable; who I can connect with. That I’m able to grab hold of and trust… I need a skin face.
That’s exactly what God provided for us on that first Christmas. In Jesus, God found a way of relating to us that doesn’t involve fear or shame. The Maker of all things shrank down, down, down… He “made himself nothing… he humbled himself…” and made a surprise appearance as a baby in a barn. What can be less scary, more welcoming and easier to connect with? He entered the mess of our existence and became one of us so that we might let him help us. This is what gives me comfort.
When life gets the best of us and we mess-up or when we get entangled in sin, we don’t have to run and hide from God. He understands us because he’s become one of us – he has a “skin face”: So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:14)
We don’t have to deal with him from behind a mask or put on an act – he’s approachable: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Our lives are never so messy that God throws up his hands in disgust and gives up on us. He’s Emmanuel, God with us in the mess. He indentifies with us, sharing his life with us in order to rescue us. He’s Emmanuel working out his love for us right in the middle of real, raw, uncensored, messy life as we experience it. Emmanuel working with us as we are, not as we should be or think we should be. Emmanuel dealing with us where we are, not where we should be or would like to be.
The message of Christmas that’s gotten lost in the midst of our hectic, consumer-driven, shop ‘til you drop, holiday season is this: God so loved the world the he rolled up his sleeves, entered our messy world in the person of Jesus Christ and now there’s hope for even the worst and messiest among us. What a gift!
So with this in mind have a wonderful Christmas… a Christmas with a skin face…