You can't put God in a box! How
often have you heard that? Perhaps you have said it yourself.
Usually when we say, "you can't put God in a box," we mean that it is
impossible to limit what God can do. That is true enough.
However, nowadays "you can't put God in a box" has become the creed of
religious relativism. Religious relativism teaches that all religious beliefs
are a matter of perspective, that all religions are equally valid and that no
one religion possesses absolute truth. For example, I recently saw a bumper
sticker that read, "My God is too big to fit into your religion." The point
being that God cannot be known through any one religion, and that every
religion (including Christianity) offers, at best, only partial knowledge of
At first glance, you might be tempted to agree. After all, we Christians
believe that God is big — infinite in fact.
Perhaps you can't put God in a box. Perhaps He is too big to
fit into any one religion, even Christianity. King Solomon said, "Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest
heavens cannot contain You." (1 Kings 8:27)
But look again at the familiar account of our Savior's birth. Luke tells us
how Joseph and Mary and came to Bethlehem. Then he writes:
So it was, that while they were there, the
days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her
firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger.
Mary put God in a box.
The mother of our Lord took her newborn son, God in the flesh, and laid Him in
a box, a feeding trough. Mary put God in a box —
Is this just a clever twisting of words? No it isn't.
While Mary was laying her baby in the manger, the angel was announcing His
birth to the shepherds. The angel told the shepherds that if they went to
Bethlehem and looked into that manger, they would find God in the flesh:
For there is born to you this day in the
city of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to
you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
There's more. Before
Mary laid God in the manger, Mary held God in her arms. For nine months prior
to that, Mary carried God in her womb. Nine months earlier, Mary had heard
and believed the angel's words:
Behold, you will conceive in your womb,
and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be
called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of
His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His
kingdom will have no end.
(Luke 1:31-33; see also Matthew 1:20-23; Isaiah 9:6-7)
Right then and there in Mary's womb, King Solomon's question, "will God indeed
dwell on the earth?" was answered. Yes, God will dwell on earth. The
God Whom the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain will not only
dwell on earth, He will take up residence first in Mary's womb.
Saint Paul writes of Jesus, "In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in
bodily form" (Colossians 2:9). The baby in Mary's womb, the baby in
Mary's arms and the baby lying in the manger is God in the flesh. There at
Bethlehem, the fullness of God was found in a box at Mary's feet. Luther
"I know of no God but
this One in the manger…"
If you will have joy, bend
yourself down to this place. There you will find that boy given for you Who
is your Creator, lying in a manger. I will stay with that boy as He sucks,
is washed, and dies. There is no joy but in this boy. Take Him away and you
face the Majesty which terrifies. I know of no God but this One in the
manger. Do not let yourself be turned away from this humanity. What
wonderful words (Col. 2:9)! He is not only a man and a servant, but that
person lying in the manger is both man and God essentially, not separated
one from the other, but as born of a virgin. If you separate them, the joy
is gone. O You boy, lying in the manger, You are truly the God who has
created me, and You will not be wrathful with me because You come to me in
this loving way — a more loving way cannot be
imagined. (Luther's Christmas Sermon, 1527)
The truth is, God cannot be truly known apart from that God in the flesh,
that God in a box, that baby in the manger.
Against the claims of religious relativism, Scripture declares that the Triune
God has revealed Himself in all His fullness in bodily form in Jesus Christ.
To know Jesus is to know God, and apart from Jesus God cannot truly be known
(John 1:14,18; 5:37-38; 14:6-9; 15:21-24; 1 John 4:6 and 2 John 1:9).
This is how God is with us — in the human flesh of Jesus. More than
that, this is how God is for us — in
the human flesh of Jesus.
It pleased the Father that in Him all the
fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself; by Him,
whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the
blood of His Cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)
Jesus traveled the path of the Virgin's womb to the Cross. He came, God and
man, so that He might make peace between God and man at the Cross.
Just as God lay in the
manger, so God hung on the Cross. Just as God lay in the manger, so God lay
in the tomb. Just as God lay in the manger, so God came out of the tomb alive
to stand among His disciples. Just as God lay in the manger, so God ascended
in glory and will return to raise the dead and judge the world.
But Jesus is no longer
in the manger. Jesus is no longer on the Cross. Jesus is no longer in the
tomb. Where is our God in the flesh to be found today? Solomon's question
remains, "Will God indeed dwell on the
earth?" And the answer remains the same.
Yes, God will dwell on earth. God is still among us as He was in Mary's
womb, in Mary's arms and in the manger. God is still among us as He was on
the Cross, in the tomb and, raised from the dead, among His disciples.
Every Sunday Jesus
speaks these words at His Supper, "This is my body given for you… This cup
is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke
Is this just a clever twisting of words? No it isn't.
The same body that was in Mary's womb, in Mary's arms, in the manger, on the
Cross, in the tomb, resurrected among the disciples and is sitting at the
right hand of God is in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. Still
today, this is how God is with us; this is how God is for us.
Paul tells us: As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's
death until He comes (1
Corinthians 11:26). This is true. As often as we receive the Lord's Supper,
Jesus' conception, birth, death and resurrection for sinners are proclaimed.
And as often as these things are proclaimed, they are delivered! Forgiveness,
Life and Salvation are found nowhere else but in Jesus, God in the flesh.
The words of the Christmas hymn sing not only of Christmas day, but of every
Sunday, every Lord's Supper:
flesh the Godhead see.
Hail thee' incarnate deity.
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
angel told the shepherds that if they went to Bethlehem and looked into the
manger, they would find God in the flesh.
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into
heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and
see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a
manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying, which
was told them concerning this Child.
This Christmas, you won't find Jesus in the manger, or on the Cross or in the
tomb. You will only find Jesus where He has promised to be found. You will
find Jesus wherever His incarnation, death and resurrection for sinners is
purely proclaimed and rightly delivered. You will find Jesus in His Word and
His sacraments. And, just like the shepherds, where you find Jesus, you find
God — God in the flesh, God with you, God for you.