Is there anything more antithetical to our way of life than being dependent, small and powerless? Yet if we follow Christ, we worship his as just those things as a child. At the same time, we are invited to reconcile ourselves with all that is such and rely on our God, who initiates all and without whom, we would not know life. We too are dependent, powerless and small.
Lately I have been thinking about what to write about for Christmas this year. Has it all been said? But then I start wondering, what was God thinking? The whole notion of the incarnation is so unbelievable! Think about this, God – who is all power and might, God who can do anything, intentionally comes to be one with us. Emmanuel, God with us. This is crazy, right? We live in a world where power is the thing and achievement is an obsession. The most powerful creator then acts in the most contrary way – and by coming to earth as a poor, disenfranchised child.
Imagine the tiny babe, dependent entirely on the adults around him, in somewhat dire circumstances. It is cold, they are far from home, they are where the animals are kept. Hold for one moment the thought of today’s acceptable levels of hygiene and the notion of having an infant in a stable.
Yet there they were, and there He was and the incarnation is on. God as human, God as baby, God as entirely dependent upon us. It makes me wonder about how I actually internalize and appropriate this knowledge year after year… I mean, I think I get it, but do I?
We live in a world where we are taught to be self-sufficient, which is more of a good thing than not. We are taught to want to achieve things, and again, this is more good than bad! We are also culturally inclined, as is most of the world, to think of power as something that is needed in order to prevail.
However, as I journey through another Advent, as I consider the implications of Christmas and this God-with-us that Jesus is, I am just about knocked down by it all. Self-sufficiency without surrender is meaningless. Achievement without regard is a sham. And power without humility is dangerous at best and truly evil at worst.
There is hope though; the hope that is Christ. That hope that shows us what Saint Paul tried to express in 2 Corinthians when he said, “for when I am weak, then I am strong.” This year, maybe I will try a new way, another way and relinquish my need to do it all, be it all and to ask for no help ever. The baby gazes up at me and reminds me that no matter what I think I am doing, it is all Him and not me. I can’t imagine making myself small, powerless and dependent, yet that is what I am and that is what we are all called to be in Christ.
(A slightly modified version of this appeared in the parish bulletin on Christmas.)