By Steven Norris
My stepbrother, Chris, is one of the strongest people that I know. The term “gym rat” is certainly appropriate as his biceps are probably as big as my head. My friend, Dave, is also one of the strongest people I know. He is an incredible artist and animator that struggles daily with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and a host of other mental health challenges. My mom is one of the strongest people that I know. An abuse survivor, she raised us boys by herself, often working three jobs to ensure that we had a house, food, and private music lessons growing up. Clearly, strength comes in many different forms.
Handel’s Messiah sings of the Christ child: “His name shall be called…Almighty God…” When you think of the might of God, what comes to mind? My guess is that many of our thoughts turn to images of God as a warrior. In Isaiah we read, “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm” (40:10). Elsewhere, it states, “The Lord will go forth like a warrior. He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies” (42:13).
Yet, in applying the title “Mighty God” to Jesus, we must allow Jesus to define for us what “might” means. The strength that he demonstrated was, at times, counter intuitive. The strength of Jesus came to us wrapped in vulnerability. For example, his birth announcement came, not to the halls of power but to shepherds out in the fields.
Many times when Jesus performed a miracle of healing, he said to the person, “Don’t tell anyone.” (For a few examples, see Mark 1:43-44; 5:41-42; and Mark 7:35-36). He didn’t draw attention to his power, but cloaked it in humility. At the triumphal entry, Jesus did not ride in on a war horse, but on a humble donkey (see Matthew 21:1-5).
At the Last Supper, Jesus did not insist on being honored as a mighty ruler. Instead, he wrapped a towel around his waist and demonstrated his strength in service by washing the disciples’ feet (see John 13:1-17). As Jesus looked down from the cross at those who had crucified him, he did not call down the armies of heaven to strike his enemies. Instead, he showed his strength in saying, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus models for us a paradoxical strength, power, and might — one that is demonstrated in humility, vulnerability, service, and forgiveness. As we prepare to welcome the baby in the manger at Christmas once again, I encourage you to think about the many ways that you have seen God’s strength manifest in you (and those around you). Take a few moments to give thanks for those examples and for Jesus, the embodiment of “Almighty God” among us.