A Broken Birth

A guest post by Mr. John Perritt, Director of Youth Ministries at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church…

When we think of Christ coming in human form, we often think of a happy, precious moment of a baby being born. However, we often don’t think of the brokenness that birth signified. Consider this – the birth of Christ did not mark his beginning. As we focus on the birth narrative at this time of year, we would be in great theological error and danger of heresy if we forgot to mention that Jesus had no beginning. Jesus is equal to God the Father, Jesus is eternal, Jesus had no beginning and he has no end. We see this clearly in Philippians 2.

He was equal with God but took on the form of a servant and was born as a man (2:6-7). This verse reminds us that Jesus left perfection and added imperfection – brokenness – to his being. Perfect Jesus was now dependent upon food and water for his survival. He was dependent on Mary & Joseph – two people he created – to care for him as the King of the universe learned to walk and talk again. This birth – as exciting and celebratory as it is – signifies brokenness for Christ. In glory before the incarnation Jesus tasted freedom, riches, joys, beyond what our minds can conceive. Jesus gave all that up in order to be born. He laid the privileges of heaven to be born and dwell among a people who thrive on disunity, to fellowship with a people who would deny ever knowing him, and to give his trust to people who couldn’t be trusted. Jesus knew the riches of Heaven, but had all of that cut off from him to be born. In our celebration of Jesus’ incarnation – and we need to celebrate – we often don’t consider the cost of our Savior.

Here’s a question: how was Jesus not bitter? How could he remember what it was like to dwell in undivided love, respect, and joy, while living in a broken world and think, “I gave up all of that, for this?” How could Jesus continually have joy in the midst of such utter brokenness? There are at least two reasons. First, because of His love of His Father. It was Jesus’ delight to do the will of his Father. Every second Christ’s earthly lungs depended on oxygen he created, he did not grow angry thinking about an existence that didn’t need oxygen for survival, because he loved fulfilling the will of God. He loved his father so much that the brokenness he took on was a delight, because his father took delight in him. Second, because of His love of you. It was Jesus’ delight to love you. Jesus did not need you to be more complete, but – in his grace – he longs to have you as his brother and sister. He was one who dwelt in perfection and gladly laid that to the side for brokenness, because he loved a people who didn’t deserve his love, a people who worship everything other than him, a people who deny him. It was his joy to take on brokenness because he loved his father and he loved you and there’s NOTHING that can shake his love for you or his Father – he is steadfast in his love; none of us possess a love like this!

So we see the brokenness that took place prior to Christ’s birth in His leaving what he had and coming to earth. But there was also brokenness that took place in his birth. We can often miss the scandal of this birth; the brokenness of it. Mary became pregnant out of wedlock, there was talk of divorce. God intervenes and instructs Joseph to abstain from divorce.

Note too Jesus’ dependence: the King of the universe, who is clothed in majestic robes of righteousness, was wrapped in cloths. Not only was he wrapped in cloths, but he was wrapped in cloths – that is, he couldn’t even clothe himself, someone had to cloth him. And then, someone had to lay him in a manger. He – being an infant – obviously had no strength, coordination, or ability to lay himself down; someone did that for him. The one who was seated at the right hand of the throne of God, was not sitting but laying in a manger. Jesus, as an infant, was not only dependent on his mother for milk, he couldn’t even ask for food. Every tongue would one day confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but Christ couldn’t even use his tongue to ask for food – he would simply cry out to his mother.

This is not meant to be crass or disrespectful, but our Savior would wet himself and need to be changed. The King of kings would need someone to change him. Anyone who has been around an infant, knows their level of dependence. It is 24/7! You cannot leave them alone, you cannot neglect them, they are in utter dependence on you for their survival. Jesus Christ was in need of broken, sinful humans for his survival. Brothers and sisters, this is a humility none of us have ever endured and none of us can fathom. And he did it with delight.

Note as well the disgust. Every mother, understandably, would be horrified if these were the conditions for the birth of their child. Of course we have modern advancements in child birth that they didn’t have back then, but think a bit about this. Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords, was placed in a feeding trough. Nasty, slobbering animals placed their dirty, slimy snouts, in the very place Jesus laid. He left a throne to be placed in a stinky feeding trough. Most toughs were made of clay, straw, and mud. King Jesus was laid to rest in dirt, mud, and straw. “Away in a Manger” doesn’t seem to capture this. If you’ve had a baby or visited a family that just gave birth, picture the hospital room. Hand sanitizer on the walls that you ensure everyone uses as they walk in. A team of medical professionals are assigned to your baby. Monitors for their heart and vital signs are constantly checked. Blankets and blankets (that have the pink and blue strips). Think about the fanfare of the royal baby, recently born. If ever there was a royal baby that deserved to be worshiped, it was Jesus Christ – born in disgusting obscurity.

Note finally, his dethronement. He had a place, enthroned at God’s right hand and here we read vs. 7b “there was no place for them…”; He went from having a place to having no place. How could there be no place for the author of creation? He owns every square inch of every place, but there was no place for him. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16). “Sorry, no room for you.” All the hands, and muscles and tools that were used to make that inn were made by Jesus Christ, but he couldn’t stay there. There is a place for you, however, where the pigs and cattle sleep.

As we meditate on the brokenness of His first coming, let us never forget, however, the future glory of His second coming. Revelation 7:15-17 reminds us that when Christ comes again, we shall hunger and thirst no more. “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Yes, Jesus Christ came and inaugurated His Kingdom, but he has not fully consummated his Kingdom until His second coming. Therefore, we look forward to that day when we can fully grasp the meaning of these truths. But even now we can grasp the truths of this passage by looking at the implicit nature and explicit nature of what’s being said here.

What are these verses implying? Let me get at that by asking this question: Do you know why these verses are so beautiful? Because each of us in this room have tasted from the bitter cup of brokenness. We know what life is like in a broken world. To say it another way, the sorrow and suffering we go through only help us to better appreciate these promises. If life was just happy, we wouldn’t long for a place like this. So, we often miss the implications of this Revelation passage. It implies that we are – right now – hungering and thirsting for more; it implies that the sun is striking us and the heat is scorching us; the promise of God wiping away every tear implies that we are crying – it implies the brokenness of this world that brings about much sorrow.

Think about the tears we do cry and those tears God promises to wipe away – those tears that can only be wiped away, because Christ came into our brokenness. Somewhere there is a teenager with acne on face; perhaps he has no father or mother to share his pain with. So he sadly walks the halls of his school in humility and fear, because of the unloving nature of people’s hearts. Not only are people uttering harsh, unloving words towards him, no one is reaching out to him and displaying love towards him.

There are tears of disunity. Speaking candidly, even within the church, we hate one another. We refuse to love one another, We stand firm in the grudges we hold toward a fellow believer, we gossip and tear down fellow image bearers. We see this disunity with issues surrounding Ferguson or Eric Garner; I’m not making any statement one way or the other BUT we can easily see a disunity among races is seen. And this isn’t only in America, as people protested over this issue in London this week. The sin in our hearts makes us long for disunity. It makes us latch on to dislike over differences, be they our football teams, the way we dress, the way we talk, the color of our skin…our brokenness longs for disunity.

There are tears of depression. Men and women, boys and girls are just hurting. They can’t explain it, they can’t put it into words – they may have had great tragedy in their lives, the loss of a loved one, maybe a loved one has hurt them, maybe they are discontent in their job or marriage or decisions their children have made. All they know is they are crying real tears. All they know is that they feel real pain and they want it to stop. They want someone, anyone, who can wipe away their tears.

There are tears of fear, anxiety, and worry. There is worry over financial concerns, worry over having enough money for presents, worry over the future, worry over the salvation of a child, friend, spouse, or parent, worry over a child leaving for college, a child marrying a spouse, etc.

But notice as well the explicit nature of what is being said in Revelation 7:15-17. Why did Jesus come? To break our brokenness. To break all the imperfections of this fallen world. By Christ’s becoming a curse for us, he has broken the power of the curse through his righteous, birth, life, death, and resurrection. These verses in Revelation 7 show us Jesus righting all the wrongs. All the brokenness, all the sadness, all the pain and hurt we endure is transformed into joyful celebration because of Jesus Christ.

The brokenness brings about the birth of Christ. This is why Jesus had to come, because we lack the love for one another. Because we do more to foster disunity than the unity He prays for on our behalf to the Father. Because He wants you to share in that unity. I know every one of us have shed tears over disunity. We all know what it feels like to be gossiped about and we’ve all participated in gossip. This is the brokenness Christ came to break. He came to break our self-righteousness, our looking to ourselves – and our family – as the standard of righteousness, “No thanks, Jesus! I have my own righteousness.” He came to break our sexually broken world, all the horrors surrounding sexual abuse of any nature – be it sickening distortions through pornography or rape; Christ came to set the record straight. He came to break our injustice, ISIS murders being only one example. Our heart rightly breaks over that, but we have hope knowing that will be fixed. Jesus Christ will not allow that to stand; Revelation 7 promises that.

What we need to grasp at this time of year is brokenness. It is wrong for us to celebrate Christ’s incarnation and minimize what it cost our Savior. However, it is equally as wrong to focus solely on the brokenness of the world and miss the saving power of the gospel through Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. In the birth of Jesus Christ, we have a joyful sorrow.


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