For the first Christmas ever, we have none of our children with us. The girls are with their other families, and their brother has to work. Last night was a bit lonely after Christmas Eve service, although texting with the Boy made it easier.
This morning, though, in the unaccustomed freedom, I feel thankful and peaceful. It gives me a little time to think about the mysterious, scandalous, hard-to-believe point of Christmas – the incarnation, God-With-Us, Emmanuel.
The tendency of some Christians to Easterize Christmas has always annoyed me – cards with babies reaching out for instruments of torture, for instance, or the shadows of rafters making a cross over a tiny child. Listen, just because we already know the end of the story doesn’t mean we jump to it first.
Take a deep breath. Let the crucifixion go for a moment. Think about incarnation, what it means. The Word became flesh, John said, and dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of Father, full of grace and truth.
The scandal of Christianity is this Word-Made-Flesh, God choosing to intersect humanity as a human, born of a human woman, needy as any baby. God chose to enter God’s own creation. Stop right there. I know you jumped to Easter, but don’t. God chose to enter God’s own creation as a creature.
One summer day (forget carols about the bleak midwinter), God put God’s self into history, into time, and into humanity. God arrived like all humans, with an expiration date. God arrived like all humans, helpless and empty, waiting to be taught. If we strip away the Christian-speak for a moment, we can think about it like this: the infinite Creator, fathomless and timeless and incomprehensible, a being beyond all knowing or understanding, became one of us, so that God could make God comprehensible to minds that are finite, stuck in time, brief flickers of understanding.
That is Incarnation, the mystery we celebrate with lights, tinsel, gifts, music. God could not watch God’s creation struggle and cry out in fear and do nothing, so God intervened. In characteristic fashion, God did not intervene with divine wrath, punishment, and turning people to charcoal; God put God’s self on the line, knowing that there was only one way out of that body. Now we know what God looks like.
He looks like a baby.