It’s been sixteen years since a somewhat obscure singer named Joan Osborne released her hit song “One of Us.” The song earned seven Grammy nominations, and made a virtually unknown singer an overnight sensation.
If you remember the song, you’ll recall it was a song of spiritual questioning, about conceiving of God in a modern age. It ruffled the feathers of many conservative Christian groups because of its irreverence and complete disgregard for faith in the God of the Bible. Here’s an example of one of the verses to the song:
If God had a name, what would it be,
and would you call it to his face,
if you were faced with him,
in all his glory,
what would you ask if you had just one question?
It was the chorus of the song that seemed to bother people the most. I remember being very uncomfortable with the words then, as I am now.
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on a bus,
trying to make his way home.
I will admit, I know very little about Joan Osbourne, then or now, and I have no idea of her motives behind that song. I suspect she knew she was pushing a few hot buttons, and probably relished in the attention she received because of it. But even in her irreverence, she asked some very real questions.
The central question–the song title, “What if God was one of us?”–could very well be the most important question ever asked this side of heaven. The answer to that question, if it were known, would do no less than change every conceivable aspect of life for people on this planet. And it’s a question that needs to be asked, no matter who asks it.
The good news is, we have the answer to that life-alterning “what if” question. He wasone of us–that’s what the incarnation of Christmas is all about: “Immanuel…’God with us'” (Matt. 1:23). Or, as the apostle John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). God did come among us, and He did have a name. His name was Jesus.
Sometimes the thought of a “one of us” Jesus, with all of its implications, makes us as uncomfortable as the lyrics to Ms. Osbourne’s song. But we mustn’t work so hard to worship His divinity that we miss His humanity. God really did become a real baby–and lived as a real man in a real world. He was one of us in every way, except, as Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, without sin. Even still, He who knew no sin would go to the cross to “become sin for us, so that we could become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
My prayer for each of you this Christmas is that you will be able to cut through the clutter of Christmas to relate to the one who became one of us so He could relate to us. May His presence be the best “present” you receive this December.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we celebrate the present of His presence together.