In his book, The Christ of Christmas, James Montgomery Boice reflects on a sermon by Donald Grey Barnhouse, “The Contrasts of Christmas:”
[This message] is of interest here because each of the eight contrasts developed by Barnhouse illustrates this central paradox.
First, Barnhouse compared Luke 2:11 with John 1:12. Both deal with birth. In the first verse the angels are speaking to the shepherds. They are saying, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” In the second verse, John is writing of the new birth that comes to those who believe on Jesus. “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” The point is that Jesus underwent a human birth so that we who believe on Him might have a heavenly birth.
Second, there is a contrast between Luke 2:7 and John 14:2. In Luke we are told that Mary laid the newborn Christ “in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” In john we read, “In my Fathers house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” We note that Jesus took His place in a manger in a stable, so that we might have heavenly mansions.
Third, we take Matthew 2:11 and place it alongside Galatians 3:26. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary.” Then, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Here we learn that Jesus became a member of a human family so that we might become members of the family of God.
Fourth, we compare Luke 2:51 with Galatians 5:1. Luke 2:51 is written of the days of Christ’s childhood, of which it is said, “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” By contrast, Galatians 5:1 reads, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus made Himself subject to others so that we, through the power of His Spirit at work within us, might be made free.
Fifth, in Philippians 2:6-7 we are told that Jesus, though “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing [that is, emptied himself of his divine glory], taking the very nature of a servant”; whereas in 1 Peter 5:4 we are reminded that “when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” Jesus laid His glory aside that we might receive glory.
Sixth, Matthew 8:20 says that during the days of His earthly ministry the Lord was so poor that He had “no place to lay his head.” We, on the other hand, have “through his poverty” been made “rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
The seventh contrast is between Luke 2:16 and Luke 15:10. In the first verse Jesus, on the occasion of His coming to earth, was welcomed by shepherds: “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby “who was lying in the manger.” In the second verse we are told that we, on the occasion of our second birth, are rejoiced over by angels: “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Finally, we are told in Matthew 2:13 that Herod, that wicked and deceitful king, sought the young child “to destroy it.” Jesus was pursued by this evil ruler so that, Hebrews 2:14 and 15 tell us, He might “destroy” that far more dangerous and evil ruler who pursues us. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
When we put those texts together we see a great pattern. We see that Jesus endured a human birth to give us a new spiritual birth. He occupied a stable that we might occupy a mansion. He had an earthly mother so that we might have a heavenly Father. He became subject that we might be free. He left His glory to give us glory. He was poor that we might be rich. He was welcomed by shepherds at His birth whereas we at our birth are welcomed by angels. He was hunted by Herod that we might be delivered from the grasp of Satan. That is the great paradox of the Christmas story. It is that which makes it irresistibly attractive. It is the reversal of roles at Gods cost for our benefit.