Healing Line

Healing Line

In Jesus' Birth: Our Deepest Healing

by Francis MacNutt
Winter 2000

It struck me recently that Jesus' birth is the most healing story in the gospels. Although the gospels contain many obvious examples of healing, such as Jesus healing the deaf mute, the Christmas story heals the very deepest of our human needs — the sad feeling that God is distant, that we never see Him, that sometimes He doesn't seem to care. God in heaven seems distant, beyond us, above us. Remember how the Russian astronauts, when they launched into space, taunted Christians that they never found heaven?

But when the Almighty God became a little baby, all that distance and fear were taken away. The people who had been taught that they couldn't even say the name of God because He is so awesome, suddenly saw God not as some frightening human being, but as an infant, a baby carried for nine months, totally dependent on His mother, Mary. He was born as we are, from a woman's body. He became a baby whom we could see, who was carried in the arms of those who loved Him — a baby nursing at His mother's breast, a baby whose diapers ("swaddling clothes") needed changing. It's hard to believe when we really think about it.

"When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process" (Philippians 2, The Message translation).

Not only did God become human, but He became a part of the lower class of an oppressed people. He identified with the poor. He wasn't born in a palace with gates, but in a cave where anyone could come to visit. He was placed in an animal's feeding trough (a manger), and surrounded by shepherds, the lowest elements of that society, the migrant workers of their day. Everyone, no matter how socially insignificant or transient, could be close to the God who came to visit His people in this humble way.

Even those who were privileged but could embrace humility would have felt comfortable kneeling next to the shepherds, the outcasts and Jesus in the manger. Here was "Emmanuel," which means "God With Us" — not a thundering God, but a baby crying and needing human help, given through Mary and Joseph.

What a change! From the lightning on top of Mount Sinai to the dark shelter of a cave. From the heights of the Law to the depths of love.

Our humanity's greatest need for healing is in our broken relationship with God, and God Himself is the one who took the first great step in bridging that divide. God has come to us. He has traveled the spiritual and psychological distance that we allow to separate us from Him because of our guilt, shame and fear. Even if that shame were not there, how difficult it would be for us to relate to an invisible God. But through Jesus, as a child once remarked, "We have a God with skin on Him."

Jesus is the visible face of an invisible God. And not only visible, but lovable and approachable in the weakness of a newborn. There's no way we can be afraid of the tiny infant whose working–class parents didn't even have enough influence to find a room for their family at an inn.

I think that's the reason Christmas always has been my favorite Christian feast — and probably yours, too. We know it's not as great a feast as Easter, but there's something very human and very loving about Jesus' birth. We go back to childhood memories, kneeling before the manger scene, imagining how it would have been to be a shepherd that night, adoring the infant Jesus as He nursed in his mother's arms, protected by Joseph.

With rejoicing angels and silent animals all in attendance, the distant God has suddenly become very close — and approachable. And that's the most healing thing that ever could have happened to us.

Merry Christmas from our family and all of us at CHM.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Winter 2000 Issue