Christmas. That’s when we celebrate the fact that God came to earth in the person of Jesus.
God coming to earth in the form of a man is central to the Christian faith. The core of our faith is not a set of doctrines or principles. Rather is a person, Jesus the Christ, whose story we read in the Bible. The simple Bible words, “he became a man and dwelt among us” tell us that God chose to tell us what he is like on our terms. Another translation puts it this way:
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood
We do not need to understand all the eternal mysteries of God; but only the man Jesus. No early language would be able to fully explain God, but all of them can repeat the story of Jesus.
Christmas tells us a lot about God, but it also tells us a lot about how we can be. Jesus crossed the gulf toward us. So, we can cross the gulf of beliefs, culture and language. God did not require that we adapt to him, instead he adapted to us. Too often, Christians expect those outside the faith and those of other languages and cultures to make a journey toward them. But that is not God’s way. This is:
As she was hearing the Christmas story in her language for the first time, an educated Cape Verdian woman put down her Portuguese Bible. “I let the words fall over me,” she said. “For the first time in my life I felt washed by the Word. I thought I knew the Christmas story by heart, but I must confess that today I feel like I’ve heard it for the very first time.
Some have said that Jesus’ coming to earth from heaven is the foremost example of translation. They even say that it proves that the message of Jesus is translatable in all languages. After all, the gulf between my language, English, and the language of many Ghanaians, Twi, cannot be bigger than the gulf between us and God. The same is true for all languages. Or are we to say that the message, in the person of Jesus, came one million million miles but cannot go another inch?
The argument sometimes advanced that some language is too humble to contain the lofty truth about God, fails before the lofty God coming and speaking one of our humble languages. Christmas silences it.
Jesus came to common people in his incarnation, and translation into vernacular languages is the only way Jesus will reach common men, women and children today (Desiring God)
This Christmas, may you renew your wonder at God translating himself into human form, and may that rejuvenate your confidence that God speaks to you, and all peoples, in the way each of us understands deep in our hearts.