What if God was one of us?

Joan Osborne asked this question in her song “One of Us” that reached Number One on Canadian music charts in 1995.

Joan Osborne asked this question in her song “One of Us” that reached Number One on Canadian music charts in 1995.

Written in one night by Eric Bazilian of The Hooters, it was not originally intended for public release. Nevertheless, this simple ballad struck a chord with many people.

Why? It gave a voice to a growing segment of the population who believe in God but feel alienated from him. This tune expressed both a desire for a knowable, relatable God and an increasingly jaded attitude toward the churches that claim to speak for Him.

One can almost picture Osborne dismissively waving her hand as she sings “yeah, yeah, God is great.” It is as if she is saying, “Yeah, I’ve heard all that religious stuff before. But what does the great God in the clouds have to do with slobs like us?” If only God were somebody that understood what real life is like here in the real world, then that would be the kind of God that she would believe in.

When I first heard “One of Us” I found myself yelling at the radio: “God was one of us! Didn’t somebody tell you?” The single greatest message of the Christmas season is this: God has walked where we walk.

Jesus came as a flesh-and-blood human being, not some sort of heavenly hologram. He experienced all of the same pains and struggles that we do today and probably more—I’m sure first century Judeans had a harder life than 21st century Canadians do!

I’m sure Jesus would have loved to be “a stranger on the bus tryin’ to make his way home” as the song says. Instead, Jesus constantly walked long distances through the countryside and often had no home to make his way to—the Bible says he had “no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20).  From a birth in a stable to death as a criminal, Jesus was nothing if not down-to-earth.

Amid the noise of the Christmas season, it is easy for this message to be lost. But there is good news. You can hear it if you listen carefully.

I’m not being figurative; you can literally hear about exactly what I’ve been saying if you listen carefully for the next days until Christmas.

How? Somewhere there will be Christmas music playing that you normally tune out and don’t think about—such as in a store or during a Christmas movie.

When you listen to the words of the Christmas carols, they tell the whole story. And it’s a true story that’s good news for anyone that ever wished God was a little more like one of us.