My wife gave birth a month ago to our daughter, Margaret Clare. She is our first child and the first grandchild on both sides of our family. Until she came along, I have not had the opportunity to hold very many babies, especially ones this little. Of course, presiding at baptisms has afforded me the opportunity to be near a few, but the moment is usually so fleeting and I tend to be concentrating on not dropping the baby, pouring water, and talking all at the same time that I don't get to drink in the moment properly.
But now that I've held my own for awhile and gotten comfortable with her squirminess and fussiness, I marvel at the incarnation in a way I never have before. It is ludicrous that God would do this! It is utterly preposterous that the Lord of heaven and earth would take this route! It's absolutely absurd. I have never had a problem imagining Jesus as a grown man, even a young one. Because I've walked those shoes myself, in some way I have always been able to envision Jesus being "just like me," or just like someone else who is in control, so to speak, of his or her actions and able to fend for him or herself and engage the world in a "mature" way. This is how Jesus is presented in 99 percent of the gospel stories, so it's easy to swallow somehow. Making the leap from man to God-man is not so great, comparatively-speaking.
Making the leap from baby to God-man is another story altogether! To think that God would risk himself in that birth and those first few months and years of utter helplessness! To think that God would deign to let us swaddle him in our cloths, to change his soiled diaper, to clean his spit-up from our collar! To think that God would get a little scared or cold or hungry and need to be comforted in our arms! Our arms?! Didn't he come to hold us in his?
I know it sounds cliche, but I view this holiday Christmas--I view the Incarnation--quite differently now that I have a child of my own that depends on me so. (I am learning that all the cliches about parenthood are wonderfully true, by the way). I truly understand for the first time what Martin Luther was preaching about in one of his nativity sermons:
"Are you afraid of God? He places before you a Babe with whom you may take refuge. You cannot fear him, for nothing is more appealing to man than a babe...To me there is no greater consolation given to mankind than this, that Christ became man, a child, a babe, playing at the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother."
Playing at the breasts of his most gracious mother? Clare does that and it drives Melinda (who is very gracious, too) crazy. God, what were you thinking?
Thank you for thinking it. And doing it.