« Back To All News

Why Would Jesus Do That?

Why Would Jesus Do That by Susan Greeley

I have never outgrown my childhood love of Christmas. Half a century later, I am still captivated by the lights, the music, the smell of fresh pine, cookies baking, the pretty wrapping paper, and the nativity scenes. What has changed are the questions I ask at this time of the year.

Whereas I used to wonder about the presents under the tree, today I wonder about Jesus. I’m not asking “What would Jesus do?” I’m asking “Why would Jesus do that?”

If you were God, would you be willing to trade your divine form for that of a human being? Having been born as a human being, would you trade your life for that of an earthworm? The reasonable answer to both questions is “Of course not!” Yet that is precisely what Jesus did when he chose to be born among us, when he was made incarnate. Moreover, he was born of a peasant girl in a cattle stall, as if to underscore the fact that this child had no earthly standing or privilege.

This is the story we tell each other and pass on to our children every Christmas. It is so well known, even among non-Christians, that we take it more lightly than we should. To me, this idea that Jesus would choose to become human is even more confounding than his willingness to die for us.

One only has to search for incarnation on the Internet to know that true theologians have been wrestling with this concept since the beginning of the Common Era. My own reflections have none of that academic rigor or gravitas. My question is a simple one: Why would anyone do that?

Susan Greeley is director of development at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and a freelance writer. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Jeff King, three cats, and a large collection of nativity scenes. Susan and Jeff are members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Oak Park, Ill.

To read this and other Gather articles, subscribe now.  As a subscriber, you can also view Gather online, as an app on your iPad, on your Android device and on your Kindle Fire. To request a free copy of the magazine, contact us.