The Night When God was Naked Before Man


I like nativity scenes; they are the one thing we see around us this time of year that actually have something to do with what we are supposed to be celebrating. Yet sadly, even most nativity scenes, whether sculpted or painted… and certainly those that are reenacted… don’t portray reality.

When Joseph and Mary arrived in the City of David on that fateful day, there was no room at the Inn and they found shelter in a “manger”. We think of this as being like a barn, a really nice barn, but it would have been more like a cave where animals are penned up. Such a place would not be charming, rustic or romantic, it would most likely have been a stinking hole, a place lower than low.

We depict the scene with radiating light, a kind of heavenly ambiance, but in addition to the stench, it also would most likely have been dark, cold and damp, infested with flies… yuk.

We often see paintings of Mary after giving birth looking as if she has just put on her best gown after a day at the spa, but if you have ever been a mother who just gave birth, of have been with a mother who just gave birth, you know very well that is a lie. Giving birth is nothing if not messy, sweaty and bloody, and mothers are not looking their best at that particular time.

In our songs about this amazing event, we see the Baby Jesus sleeping so peacefully; “not a cry he makes”… Seriously?

Later on a bunch of shepherds arrived to pay homage after an encounter with a squad of angels, and we depict them in their Sunday best as though shepherds were anything other than the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder of the time.

Yes dear reader, we romanticize the entire scene, and that is a great shame.

Look at what Paul said about Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:6-8

When Jesus was born in that manger, there were no divine trappings of any kind; it was cold hard reality. Jesus left glory behind entirely when He came to earth and He was just like we are in every way. He grew hungry, thirsty and tired, He sweated, He needed bathroom breaks, He had body odor, He caught colds… there was nothing about Him that set Him apart from anyone else in the physical sense; according to Isaiah, he wasn’t even good looking. In the manger, He entered this world naked; on the cross He left this world naked in the physical sense.

In between, He taught and healed and brought hope to Mankind that so desperately needs all of these and He did so without pretense or any worldly glamour or greatness; He was naked in the metaphorical sense, for in Jesus God is naked before Man with nothing standing in between.

Earlier this year, I wrote a series of posts about our need to be naked before God, to take away everything that comes between us and God and to approach His presence in complete humility and openness.

How hard that can be!

Yet in this, as in all things, Jesus is our model. If only we would resist the temptation to sanitize His story, maybe His humility and humanity would be easier for us to grasp, and we could see how truly awesome His divinity is. Yes, maybe that would make it easier for us to strip away everything that separates us from God in this life.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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25 Responses to The Night When God was Naked Before Man

  1. George F. says:

    What other lies can you share? This was educational. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: The Night When God was Naked Before Man | A disciple's study

  3. The birth was never originally celebrated, but, with the modern celebration instituted arbitrarily I can agree that we’ve sanitized it to make is seem what we perceive to be the image of holiness. When it comes to His death however, I believe the movie The Passion of Christ did a pretty good job of depicting the reality of His suffering until death. I’m sorry that George F. was so rude in his remarks. Forgive him.

  4. I was thinking George might have been referring to the same lies Don was – how Jesus “never made a cry”, how the barn wasn’t comfortable, how everyone was all gussied up for the birth, etc. Maybe I misinterpreted him.

    But this is great. There is so much religious gilding over the nativity chapter that it lifts the whole story, and Jesus, out of our reach – the opposite of his intention. Also consider that genocide followed shortly thereafter. This is a grim tale, hard and bloody right up until the resurrection. Thanks for the bucket of cold water, Don.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Well Brandon I think a little shot of reality makes the story vastly more inspiring and empowering… but that’s just me. As for George, I very much liked his comment; I think he gets it.

  5. pipermac5 says:

    Our society can’t handle a NAKED-Jesus, whether at His birth, or during His death, or at anytime in-between. Many Christians can’t handle the REAL Jesus, because it offends their sensibilities and seems to be “below His dignity”, yet until we come to grips with the REAL Jesus, we will never understand how LOW Jesus stooped to purchase our redemption.

    We can’t handle or imagine Jesus being crucified buck-naked or walking out of the tomb buck-naked. Where did the cute little “loin-cloth” come from when He was crucified? Where did the beautiful “resurrection-robe” come from? Figments of our imagination?

    Yes, childbirth is a NASTY process, and having seen three of my own children being born and having pretty-much delivered my first-born, I know first-hand. It wasn’t “beneath my dignity” to wear those nasty scrubs for the rest of the day. Never mind all the other significant details of Jesus’ birth. The picture was NOT “pretty”.

    In my series “How Human Was Jesus?”, I have tried to capture the humanity of “The Word (who) became flesh and dwelt among us” in sometimes-graphic descriptions of the REAL Jesus. It is time for us to quit “sanitizing” the life of Jesus and see Him as He is. Only then, will be start coming to grips with the incredible price He paid on our behalf.



  6. Pete says:

    Can you imagine if someone put together a Nativity Play in public and portrayed it as close to the way the original would have been if possible? I bet the church would be outraged, as well as the public. But it would be truth! Well, I guess the church and the public are often outraged at the truth of the Word – what else is new! Thanks for a very thought provoking post.

  7. Pingback: The Night When God was Naked Before Man | The Life Project – Br Andrew's Muses

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  9. :) says:

    That was wonder-filled.

    Thank you so much for this. 🙂

  10. Profound and profoundly moving: God allowing Himself to become naked before men and exchanging His glories and riches in heaven to be born in a stinking, cold, dark cave with flies and every human discomfort and pain. For us. For our eternity. The Christmas Story should not be separated from the Resurrection Story.

  11. AnaGuerrero says:

    So true and honest, we fantasize that his birth was any different than ours but reality is more harsh. Thank you for reminding us😌

  12. mlbnut says:

    Good stuff! One of my husband’s pet peeves is that line from Away in a Manger!
    Very glad I discovered your blog. 🙂

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