Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Was Jesus' birth and infancy just a means to an end, something he had to go through to become the Son of Man? Was it something to skip over? Some prefer not to envision our Savior as a helpless infant but would rather only think of him as mighty and powerful. Yet, a divine being who would enter his own creation by taking on the form of an unborn, then newborn child speaks volumes, revealing the wonder and absolute love of God in an unprecedented way. Emmanuel. God with us. The baby Jesus was the beginning of the story and the most startling paradox the universe will ever know.
But wouldn't it have made more sense for him to suddenly appear already grown, majestically descending in a flaming chariot, ready to begin his long-awaited ministry? Surely an angelic escort would have been in order.
Instead, the infant king came to earth in greatest humility, in the womb of a Jewish peasant girl. One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L'Engle says it so well in her book, Bright Evening Star.
"Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?"
Out of the depths of eternity he came. Jesus, willingly and lovingly "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness...." (Phil. 2:6) "Power. Greater power than we can imagine, abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child, still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid, unseeing, unhearing, unknowing.... The throwing away of power requires enormous power..." Madeleine L'Engle.
Just prior to his birth, in the darkness of Mary's womb, Jesus was sensitive to the fears, stress, fatigue and anxiety that his mother felt as they traveled 90 miles on a donkey, first on dirt paths along the Jordan River, then narrow, rocky mountain trails before reaching Bethlehem. It was a grueling trip for both mother and child, fraught with hazards. Their journey took them through dangerous, heavily-forested areas inhabited by lions, bears and wild boars. Bandits and robbers were a constant threat.
Upon arrival in Bethlehem, there was no room for them and the Savior of the world was born in a harsh and bleak environment, carefully and adoringly wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary and Joseph and gently placed into a primitive manger. Heaven was resplendent with joy but on earth there was silence.
The Son of God, second person of the Trinity, eternal and omnipotent, broke into the limitation and confinement of time for us and became flesh as the Son of Man. He went from obscurity in the womb to obscurity on earth. It would be years before anyone knew who he was.
Every year, I search for adequate expression, a way to magnify the significance of his extraordinary, yet ordinary birth. Not only am I overawed beyond words by his expansive humility, but I am stirred emotionally, imagining him as a tiny precious babe. Who cannot be moved by exquisite little toes and fingers, the spontaneous newborn expressions and sounds? Who cannot be tenderly swayed by the Christ child needing to be fed, clothed, rocked, sung to and cuddled? Picturing this makes me smile. It makes me cry. I feel drawn to him in a special way and that is exactly as intended.
It is part of the divinely designed plan for humanity. God so loved the world that he gave his only son. Our hearts are awakened and softened by the story of Mary and Joseph and a baby in a manger. As we genuinely respond to this marvelous event declaring his unending, amazing love, the expected eternal bonding continues and is strengthened.
At the moment of the conception of God's own son, the course of history was altered forever. Surely, this is cause for worship and praise, joy and celebration of the wonder of his love.