Especially in Protestant theological circles, there is often an emphasis (at times, an overemphasis) on God’s sovereignty and omnipotence. (In Catholic circles, this emphasis may not be official, but it is, nevertheless, still present.) Calvin, for example, often begged the question: How do I compare to the majestic God? Karl Barth went even further, adamantly confessing that Jesus’ divinity excludes his humanity. In fact, it was not until Barth’s rather famous lecture, The Humanity of God, just twelve years before his death, that he acknowledged the importance of Christ’s humanity and, additionally, confessed the sin of omitting this focus from his earlier theological inquiry.
But when we read the final verse of the Gospel for this Feast, everything seems to change: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (40).
God, in Christ, is Lord over all creation. Yet, he is only Lord for you where and when he has promised to be present for his Church to see, touch, hear, and handle (to steal a few images from 1 John). Admittedly, this happens in the Church’s sacramental life where Jesus drops down from heaven in the transformed bread and wine. This also happens in the font where the Holy Spirit broods over the water, while Jesus enters into its depths with us and for us. But this also occurs, it would seem, in our preaching, as the viva vox Jesu speaks to us again. As the Church fathers were wont to say, the Word makes himself small for us; the Word abbreviates himself. And this text is one of the clearest examples of this reality.
After being presented in the temple and received by Simeon Eucharistically, the text says that Jesus grew up. He got big and he got smart. What this means, of course, is that when he came to us as one of us, he came in the fullness of our humanity. Whether or not he emptied himself of his divinity or merely suppressed it is a question that has long plagued theologians, especially those of a Lutheran persuasion. Yet, whatever occurred when he assumed our flesh, it is clear from the gospels that Jesus did as we do. And I would propose to you, that Christ acting this way, with us and for us, is of greater comfort to the terrified conscience than any notion of a sovereign or omnipotent God-man.
Since Jesus became as we are, he can relate to us. He knows our feelings, our emotions, our desires, and even our temptations (though he stood strong where Adam fell hard [cf. Lk 4]). And this, it would seem, makes all the difference in the world. Why? Because there is no one who cannot be comforted by his presence. He is the Word, yes, but in his Word-ness he is adaptable to us. He molds himself to our situations, our troubles, and our lives, so that in receiving him, we might be molded to his life – a life which is most divine (Col 2:9).
And this is what I would stress this year at the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. I would remind people – in this world of troubled economies and failed jobs and political ads and bad marriages – that Jesus became precisely as we are. He knows us and, in fact, he knows us better than we know ourselves. He got big. He got smart. And by his sacramental grace, he will help us, children of the Kingdom of God, do the same.
With all of the foregoing, allow me to leave you with the portion of a sermon from Luther which says, from start to finish, what we should be saying this Sunday.
Let us then meditate on the fact that everything which we see happening to our babies really happened to him. Let no one think that Christ already then displayed some signs of his majesty. When he was a boy, he behaved just as our babies do. […] Christ puts on human nature and the whole range of human feelings except for sins, so that you won’t be frightened but rather begin to be embraced by his grace and love and so be comforted and strengthened. Christ then is set before us in all respects as the one who comes to give salvation and grace.
I say this especially to anxious, disturbed, sad consciences, so that they look deliberately at this child and meditate through faith on him who will make amends for us. […] Consider Christ placed in the womb and on the lap of his dear mother and that dear girl who remains a virgin! What could be more loveable than this body? What less threatening than this dear girl? What more gracious than this virgin? Consider too that Christ is an ignorant boy. […] If you embrace him; if you appreciate him; if you laugh with him; that is, if you meditate on this by far most peaceful person, then your mind will also be most tranquil. See how God entices you! He presents a boy for you to take refuge in. What’s more, no one can be afraid of him, for there could be nothing more loveable to anybody. […] It seems to me that no more effective consolation has been given to the whole human race than this Christ who is altogether man, boy, baby, playing in the lap of this girl with the breasts of this most gracious mother. Is there anyone who is not taken in and comforted by this sight? And so punishment is overcome. […]
You will discover that the boy Christ has indeed been just as ignorant and silly as we were when we were babies. That comes out quite clearly in Philippians 2:6ff where Paul says: “though he was in the form of God, (he) … emptied himself, being born in the likeness of men.” There he maintains that, even though Christ the man was engaged in sending out the rays of divinity, he nevertheless did not want to put on anything but the form of a slave, i.e. the appearance of a person who served men. […] Christ the boy behaved just like us.
I do not agree with those who teach that Christ then had a sure and absolute knowledge of everything. No, he really was an ignorant boy and afterwards grew up in stages, years, and wisdom, as Luke says in 2:52. […]
As you see the example of God’s majesty put down into despised flesh, so put down your pride etc. As you see the example of his peacefulness, so you will be a conciliator and peacemaker. As you see how Christ becomes all things for all men, so you will be a servant to others. But in order to do this, meditate on Christ sacramentally; believe that he himself will give you all this.
 Luther, ‘Christmas Sermon on Matthew 1:1-17, 25 December 1519 in WA 9:439-442, trans. John W. Kleinig (1985) [emphasis mine].