“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”
—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Growing up in a country church, I heard a lot of talk about “inviting Jesus into your heart.” The grown-ups who used that term seemed rational and competent, so I accepted the phrase. But, oh, I pondered it.
I couldn’t quite make it work. I had questions. My first problem with the idea of “inviting Jesus to come live in my heart” wasn’t theological, but spatial. When I was about eight, I took my mom aside and asked her a two-part question.
First: “Mom, Jesus was a grown man, right?”
“Yes,” she told me, “Jesus, was born and grew up like the other adults you see.”
Second question: “Ok,” I said, “Then how can a grown-up Jesus even fit into a little boy’s heart?”
On the one hand, I felt like I had discovered something new. But on the other, my question frightened me. Had I seen a problem that no one else had seen? Once I exposed the “size problem,” I feared that the whole of Christendom might crumble. And history would eventually track it back to little Roger Edwards of Siler City, the boy who killed Christianity.
I vaguely recall my mom laughing and saying something like, “God can do anything.” Well, I found that answer wholly unsatisfactory. First, it didn’t do justice to my profound question. And second, I’d heard this answer used before to cover all sorts of questions about God and the Bible. It was a sort of get-out-of-jail-free-card answer. But I was eight, so what could I do? Outwardly, I accepted my mom’s answer, but my question never went away.
In fact, the size problem got bigger. As I began to understand the Christian message, I found that God was much bigger than the “old-man-in-the-sky” I’d imagined. He dwarfed the world, the solar system, the universe. He was bigger than size and older than time. In fact, I learned that the words “big” and “old” don’t really apply to God, since He is without limit and beyond time. As I learned more, the whole concept of God kept expanding until eventually my conceptualization couldn’t keep up. This was a similar experience to when I had tried to name the largest number I could, only to realize that someone could always add one more to it. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the reality that numbers (and God) never end. Never, ever.
God is never-ever-ever-(ever +1)-ending.
Somewhere along the line, I applied this same scale to Christmas. Someone introduced me to the definition of the word “incarnation,” which I had previously thought was some kind of Christmas flower.
“No,” I was corrected, “Incarnation means that God became a man.” So the eternal never-ever-(ever+1)-ending God became a mortal/finite-(non +1)-humanoid. Christmas is the Incarnation, when God entered the world in, or contained within, the shape of an infant.
There was that size problem all over again, except infinitely more difficult.
Yet, my mom had told me that God can do anything. His size is matched by His power. I learned that this is called “omnipotence,” which I had always thought had something to do Granddad sneaking alcohol.
“No,” I was corrected again, “Omnipotence means God is all-powerful.” The eternal never-ever-(ever +1)-ending God who is also all-all-(all+1)-powerful became a mortal/finite-(non+1)-humanoid who hungers, thirsts, gets tired, and needs His mom. Christmas is the Incarnation, when God entered the world within the shape of a powerless infant.
However, this brought up yet another problem. Ok, so this is something an Eternal being can do because He is all-powerful. But just because God can do it, why would He do it? It was already incredible that God could fit His all-powerful, never-ending self into human form, but the idea that He would want to seems incongruous. Inappropriate? Scandalous? Maybe even foolish.
My mom had told me that, yes, God could do anything, but somewhere along the way I remembered that she also told me that God would do anything to show me that He loves me. He would cram Himself, limit Himself, empty Himself into the form of a servant just to track down that little boy from Siler City. Christmas is indeed the Incarnation, when God—the eternal, never-ever-(ever+1)-being and the all-all-(all+1)-powerful—spared not even His own son to bring His love to my little heart, where He intends to live. Forever-ever-ever-and-(ever+1).
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. He works with both with individuals and couples, helping people confess their need and embrace their available choices to lead healthier lives. Roger also teaches and leads discussion groups and retreats applying the Gospel to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean and they have seven children and nine grandchildren.