Sometimes the most celebrated holiday of all of humanity seems a bit complex to me. It must be, because it has been misunderstood and misappropriated in many ways by many people. Not that this declaration is a statement of my expertise on the matter, for I am admitting difficulty. I am part of the crowd that misunderstands.
That is why every time I look in the eyes of a new little one born to my wife and me, I am amazed and surprisingly informed. What I mean by amazed is that I am in awe as a parent of getting another glimpse into the heart of the heavenly Father. How it feels to hold your child, to have been a part of God’s creative process, to see new life, and to anticipate life to come with unconditional regard for all the ups and downs of that journey. It is amazing. What I mean by informed is that I feel like I am given another peak at God’s perspective on the most celebrated holiday, His view and purpose and reason for the original Christmas.
Each time I have watched my wife give birth to a child, I have been overcome with joy and love – beyond emotion. To see a mother go through all she has to go through to give birth (she has delivered 3 out of 4 naturally, like with no drugs. I know – she is amazing :o). To see her pain turn to tears of joy. In the Old Testament, God is actually described not only with fatherly characteristics, but also with motherly characteristics, too. This makes sense, since he made us in His image – both man and woman. And I am amazed to see Jen’s love as a mother and think of God’s sacrifice for us. I am also amazed as a father, for the pride I feel for and in my child. A sense of both “wow this child is mine – that’s a heavy responsibility” as well as a sense of “this child has been given to me and I must treat him/her as though she has been given and encourage him/her toward the greater purpose he/she was made for.” Both senses are a bit overwhelming and exciting at the same time. What is most amazing is how God must feel.
Jesus said on one occasion that if we asked our Dad for bread, he would not give us a stone, would he? Neither would the heavenly Father, because of His deep love for us. He is crazy about us and wants to lavish us with His love (according to John in 1st John). I understand that more with each child. I feel a deep love for each child. An enduring love. An “I don’t care if you go off the deep end when you are a teenager, because your mom and I are going to love you anyway” kind of love. A “plant and water the love of Jesus in your heart” kind of love. A steady plodding kind of love.
My friend Dale Kelly has told me before that the Proverb about “steady plodding brings the truest wealth” is true of parenting, too. He declares himself a very wealthy man, because of the treasure of his children. And he challenged me to be about steady plodding with my kids. He is a great dad, and like my dad he shows me what the heavenly Father is like, too. Amazing.
The kind of love that was so intently demonstrated at Christmas is truly amazing and life-changing. That’s why it’s funny to me when “Christians” declare “war” on those who are defaming Christmas with regard to its connection with the Christ. I wonder if in many instances they are not themselves disconnecting Christmas with Christ. Because you see, people in our culture who are “lost” – or have not discovered Jesus as the way to life – are the ones doing the disconnecting. Jesus never declared war on the lost. He loved them to death. To the self-righteous, though, He spoke adamantly against how disconnected they had become with the God who had given them their purpose. They were defaming God by the declarations they made against the lost. Jesus didn’t like that. It didn’t show an enduring love, and it certainly wasn’t going to lead the people they spoke against to repentance. Paul said kindness would, though.
And that leads to the thought of being surprisingly informed. In much the same way that a baby’s cry can suddenly grab the attention of all present in a delivery room, the cry of God as a baby most certainly grabbed the attention of all those present in the delivery room of Bethlehem. At least all those who were listening. Like shepherds. Considered dirty and often outcasts. Yet they paid attention to that baby’s cry. And the cry from that first Christmas screams love. Love for the broken, the poor (both in spirit and in form), the sick, the lost, and the outcasts. It screams a surprising love from a desiring Father, who so apparently loved the world that He sent His only Son. God put on human skin, became a baby. Why?
With each new child that I am blessed to hold, I am made more and more aware as to why. I feel like God’s Spirit surprisingly informs me with just another glimpse into the why of that first Christmas from His perspective. And He does it every time He gifts us with a new baby. So, why did He become one?
Because a baby is given. Because a baby makes things new again. Because a baby brings life. Because a baby exudes joy. Because a baby smells like heaven. Because a baby implies hope. Because holding a new baby is so peaceful. Because a baby needs us. Because a baby makes the most sense.
Because a baby needs us? I wonder if that could really be a reason for God becoming a baby? Could it be that God needs us? The mere sound of the question hints at heresy of sorts. The divine needs the divisive? But He does. He must. Why would He go to the trouble of giving His love to us like He did? Maybe because at His core, He is love, and love must be given. And so He made us to give that love, and He needs us as the ones He gives it to. And so He became a baby.
I wonder sometimes, as I hold a new little one, whether I have more to give to that little one, or whether that little one has more to give to me. More to remind me of. More to pour into my life. I need him/her as much as if not more than he/she needs me. And God needs me, although I need Him more, to give His love away to, which I need so very desperately for Him to need to do.
Finally – what if He became a baby, because coming as a baby made the most sense?
Have you ever noticed that Jesus spends His life avoiding anything that would lead to death before it was time for Him to die? As Paul says – in the fullness of time. Think about it. Joseph could have stoned Mary to death simply based on the appearance that she committed adultery and became pregnant by someone else. No stoning occurred. Herod, greedy for power and insane enough to do whatever He had to do to keep it, ordered the death of all young boys in Bethlehem in hopes of killing to coming King. Jesus escaped. Satan asked Him to leap from the Temple mount. Religious leaders wanted Him murdered. He was as disturbing then as His teachings still are today. His following threatened the balance of religious and political tension in a region that connected the three continents of the world. And so, He had to avoid death until the time was right. That’s why it made sense to come as a baby.
Herod wouldn’t see a young husband and pregnant wife returning to Bethlehem for the census as a threat to his reign. He would have been looking for a charismatic leader with a following. Herod wouldn’t look for a baby in a manger. He would have looked for someone staying in palatial accommodations. The problem is most of us don’t look below the radar in that way either. We have made godliness out to be prosperity and appearing to have it all together. Not an outcast couple who had to make it on the very least.
Like a baby.
Complex, huh? And yet so simple. And for the simple and broken and hurting and poor. For those not so consumed with what they already have or already hold on to that they might actually be looking beyond the obvious and listening for the One who tended toward speaking in a still small voice.
The cry of a baby.
Merry Christmas, Jesus. Thanks for coming. Thanks for wearing diapers. Speaking of which – Jen and I will be changing quite a few of them for the next two or three years.
Ella Faith, our fourth child, came December 13th. Look for some pics and video to come later this week. It’s special to hold a fresh, new baby at Christmas time. And that’s what we’ll be doing. It just makes sense.