top of page

Intimate Incarnation

This year, my family and I are living the Christmas story. At least, that’s how it feels. For months, we were eagerly awaiting the arrival of a baby.

Then, on December 7, he arrived: Samuel Aguilera, my grandson.

There was an upgrade in transportation—less donkey, more American Airlines from California.

He came bearing gifts—my daughter, Rebecca, and my son-in-law, Caleb.

He is seven months old now, and weighs twenty-three pounds. He’s huge! And heavy, so heavy. Along with my children, he is without doubt the most beautiful child in all of history. You think this is hyperbole? It is not. 😉


So, what is it about babies? What do they teach us? What truths do their little faces communicate as they smile up at us?


Let’s start with joy. Babies give us joy, pure joy. Watch any group of people gathered around a beautiful baby and see the joy, the laughter, the delight. Babies are also extremely funny. Forget Netflix or Disney Plus. With a baby in the house, you have all the entertainment you need. Sam has already worked out how to make everyone laugh. Lean back, blow raspberries and giggle. Works every time.


It’s impossible to escape just how vulnerable a baby is. For years, we humans can do little for ourselves. We are completely dependent on our caregivers. And truth be told, we never lose our vulnerability. The myth of self-sufficiency is just that. It’s a myth. We are entirely dependent on our God, who sustains this universe, who is master over every aspect of our lives, whether we acknowledge him or not.


Babies have one overriding need: to feel safe and secure. Birth itself is a complete shock to their system. From the warmth and security of the womb, a baby is launched into a hostile world. All their senses are assaulted. No wonder they cry out. A baby spends the first year of life simply adjusting to the shock of living in the world. This is why they have an overwhelming desire to feel safe and protected. It’s scary out here!

The need for safety never really leaves us. This is why the Bible is such a wonderful source of comfort to those who feel insecure and anxious. It comforts those who, like babies, are fearful in this threatening world.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.”

Ps 91.1-2

You are my hiding place;

you will protect me from trouble

and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Ps 32.7

In peace I will lie down and sleep,

for you alone, Lord,

make me dwell in safety.

Ps 4.8

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;

The righteous runs into it and is safe.

Prov 18.10


After safety, love comes a very close second. Babies need love—a lot of it—and in their first few months, that is communicated through physical touch. It’s well known nowadays that physical touch isn’t just an option, but a necessity for healthy child development. Serious damage is inflicted on children who are denied physical touch during their first year of life. Certain neural pathways in the brain never develop, and short of a miracle, will never develop unless a child is held, touched, and kissed during these early months. Studies on the effect of Romanian orphanages have confirmed this.

We need love. We need it desperately. Indeed, it is humanity’s greatest need—to love and be loved. We are created for it. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbour as yourself. By this all people will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.

And some of my favourites from 1 John.

Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God . . . God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him . . . We love, because He first loved us.

1 Jn 4.7,16,19


There is so much wisdom in the words of Jesus, when he said, ‘Allow the children to come to me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ Indeed, he was so adamant about this that he followed it up with, ‘Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’

Receive the kingdom of God like a child.

Like a child.

Like a baby.

When Sam greets a new person, he almost always smiles. Why? Because every person he has ever met—aside from some scary health professionals—has smiled at him. This has ingrained a habit of trust. He expects favour and he returns favour. He demonstrates innocent faith in the benevolence of other human beings. Later, of course, he will learn that people are not always what they seem, but for now, all is well. That’s because babies bring out the best in us. Dare I say it but even terrorists care for their children.


And so to the Christmas story that has a baby right at the centre. She (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid him in a manger.

What is Christmas about?

It’s helpful to start in the realm of cinematography. In the movies, a director has many options for how the camera captures a scene. From wide-shot to close-up, all shots fall somewhere on the spectrum. The Bible is similar. The great themes of Scripture—salvation, justification, glory, sovereignty—come across as wide-shots. Romans is a wide-shot book. So is the second half of Revelation. Even the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3.16, is a wide-shot. For God so loved the world. That’s a huge panning shot of our planet.

But Christmas?

A baby held tenderly by his mother. This is about intimacy. This is up close and personal. The close-up. The camera zooms in, filling the lens with the long lashes, the soft skin, the look of wonder in Mary’s eyes. This is a scene which invites us not to reflect with grand vision, but to enter into an intimate moment.

Immanuel. God with us. That means you, personally. By your side. Within you. Holding you. Cherishing you. Loving you. This is Christmas. For our core identity is rendered as follows:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.

Jn 1.12a

Children of God.

We are children and will always be children, forever in need of our loving heavenly father, who holds us, cares for us, waits for us, seeks us, instructs us; whose heart beats constantly for us. We are children embraced like the returning prodigal, whom the father ran out to meet. Wrapped in his arms.

This is Christmas. It’s about being held tenderly by our God, reflected in the image of intimacy between mother and child. This Christmas, please don’t leap to the wide-shot of Good Friday and Easter Day. Don’t skirt over this opportunity to remind people how deeply they are cherished by their God.

Easter will come and glorious it will be. But right now, we are celebrating Christmas—the close-up—when the intimate incarnation took place. When God drew near to us. When he showed us just how much he loves us. It’s a moment in time when the enduring image of mother and child provides a snapshot of our core identity: child of God. For we are safe in his arms, just as the babe was safe in the arms of Mary.

Worship the Christ-child this Christmas, and simply enjoy being held and protected by your Saviour, as he was held and protected by his mother so many years ago.

For he is worthy of our worship.

Come let us adore him.


A new post every Thursday - don't miss out!

Sign-up for our email list and select "Interested in... Podcast and Blog Updates" to be notified

bottom of page