It’s all about the baby

Christmas 2009

Marian Free

In the name of God whose contradictions keep us alert, awake and expectant. Amen.

When you think about it, it was not a very auspicious start – the Creator of the Universe entering his own creation as a tiny, vulnerable baby. There were so many other options – a football star, a famous singer, a mighty warrior – if God had come as any of these people might have sat up and taken notice. Or even if God had used some tried and true method of appearing – in a burning bush, as a pillar of cloud or as a pillar of fire. If God had come as someone instantly recognizable, or in a familiar form, he might have had a better start, a greater chance of radically changing the world.

So why a baby – tiny, powerless, unable to exert any influence on world affairs?

It’s an interesting question because if we are honest, even though we know the story, we don’t always think about the baby being God. We all like the wonder and joy that the nativity scene brings. There is something about the sentimentalism of Christmas that attracts us, that makes us feel good about ourselves and the world. In reality however, the baby is very confronting. If Jesus is God, then the baby is God. And if the baby is God, we have to rethink all our pre-conceptions about who and what God is. If God is a baby, then God cannot be an old man in the sky. If God is powerless and vulnerable, then God cannot be a vindictive judge. If God chooses to be so intimately related to human beings, then God cannot be remote and distant.

It’s a nonsense really – believing in a God who is vulnerable, powerless, intimately close. And that is the point. The baby – the contradiction – is the message. If we allow ourselves to believe in God the infant, we discover that all our preconceptions about God are thrown into disarray. We are left wondering what it is we can hold onto. If God is dependent on us for survival, then perhaps God is not simply a miracle worker to be manipulated by our demands. If God puts himself into a position in which he might experience human suffering, then perhaps he is not indifferent to or unaware of our human experience. If God allows himself to be subject to the ups and downs of life, then we cannot expect God to wave a magic wand to make our lives run smoothly.

The baby confronts all our stereotypes and expectations and asks us to re-evaluate our understanding of the nature of God. At the same time, God in a cradle challenges us to develop an open-ness to God, that doesn’t confine or restrict God to the narrowness of our imagination. It demands a willingness to be expectant, excited and willing to see God wherever and however God appears to us.

The infant Jesus inspires us with a child-like sense of wonder and awe which in turn creates an open-ness, a suspension of the rational and a willingness to believe. The baby is an invitation from God to allow ourselves to be set free to be surprised, astonished and overwhelmed by the many and varied ways in which God is present in the world.


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