Christmas is that time of year when we look at God, not as someone all powerful, all knowing, all present; but as a baby. He is approachable and available. That for many seems like a bizarre way to describe God. In Israel that first Christmas these were not normally words that we would associate with God, perhaps they are not words you would associate with God.
In the final scenes of the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the adversary of Indiana Jones attempts to open the Ark of the Covenant, this symbol of the presence of God. In a frightening scene he pays the ultimate price for coming near the presence of God. His face melts off.
For the Jew in the Old Testament that was their picture of God. The instructions for handling the ark read more like the instructions on how to handle radioactive material than approaching God. You must wear special clothing, you must have special training, you can only be exposed to it once a year, and then in a confined space that is not accessible to others.
Yet, God in a manger changed all that.
God humbled himself so that we might understand that we can approach him. In our culture today, we are used to approaching God whenever we want. For example, we have been raised in a tradition of informal or private prayer where we can approach God at anytime. He is safe. He is approachable.
We do not appreciate the change that Jesus brought.
Hindus bring sacrifices to their temples in order to approach god. Muslims bow down with their head touching the ground in an act of reverence when coming to God. In most religions the way that we approach God is with fear and reverence.
In ancient times that was how the Jew approached God. To meet with God was a frightening thing. So frightening that the Jews dare not pronounce the name of God.
Yet, God made himself safe for us to approach. Nothing is more approachable than a baby. The God whose name alone brought fear was laying in a manger, with the arms that created the world wrapped tightly to his body in swaddling cloth.
Perhaps Christmas is a good time to remember the God who says to you, approach me. Come to me. Get to know me.