By Curtis K. Shelburne/ Local Columnist
In worship on a Sunday just before Christmas several years ago, I found myself gazing at the front of the sanctuary watching silhouetted shepherds themselves gazing upward in wonder, one of them pointing toward a brightly shining star.
The fact that the star itself was just a few feet away from the cross also displayed before us was a poignant reminder that in God’s wisdom Bethlehem and Golgotha are forever linked, two sides of the same wondrous story of God’s love.
The Baby of Bethlehem drawing his first breath of air in the world he had spun into existence eons before was more than a baby. He was Immanuel, God with us, God in the flesh, God who came into this world laying aside the robes of royalty, willingly clothing himself in the garment of humanity to fully experience our joys and our sorrows, our triumphs and our tears.
I love the story told by author John Drescher about a little boy lying awake terrified by a storm late one night. From his dark shadowy room he cries out to his father, “Daddy, come, I’m scared.”
Daddy replies, very truthfully, “Oh, son, God loves you and he’ll take care of you.”
But the boy isn’t satisfied, and he shouts back, “I know God loves me and that he’ll take care of me, but right now I need somebody with skin on.”
Our world did, too. And so God came “with skin on.” Immanuel, God with us. God sharing fully in the human situation from the trauma of birth to the violence of death. God feeling everything a human being can feel.
Christmas assures me that the God I worship is no absentee landlord who lives a million miles off leaving the poor tenants to aimlessly do their own thing.
Nor is our God an emotionless lawgiver, a heavenly bureaucrat lost somewhere on a cloud shuffling paper and handing down rules to complicate a situation he knows nothing about.
God is not the sort of military officer who proposes brave and daring offensives but whose idea of “leading” the charge is sitting safe and warm in a command post moving markers and flags on a map.
Christmas assures me that God has been at the front. He’s seen the blood. And the most precious of all was his.
The wondrous story of Christmas is that with those stunned shepherds all the angels and the universe itself watched in utter amazement at the depth of God’s love as he became what we needed most — Immanuel, a God with skin on.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at