And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
I’m having more trouble than usual this year getting into the Christmas spirit. The reasons for this are many. I grew up in the North. 80-degree weather and Christmas just don’t go together in my psyche even though I’ve now spent a third of my life in that situation. We’ll be traveling over Christmas and New Year’s so going all out to decorate seems an exercise in pointlessness. Plus, the season is full of other things to do. And, I’ve been hosting a cold for several weeks that apparently suffers from separation anxiety issues. It refuses to leave. It’s not bad enough to justify curling up in bed with a book all day every day. But it’s annoying enough to make the thought of hauling out the Christmas things, baking up a storm, getting out Christmas cards, gift shopping and wrapping, and all the other trappings of this time of the year just seem like too much effort. I don’t really have a bah-humbug attitude. It’s more of a blah, I just don’t feel up to it response.
But I have been thinking about it. I mean, one can hardly miss Christmas in the current culture. If there is a war on Christmas – (I’m pretty sure there isn’t) – whoever is waging it is doing a lousy job. Evidence of the Christmas season is everywhere I go. So I’ve been thinking about the whole Christmas story again. I’ve been thinking about the original one about the babe in the manger whose parents who couldn’t find a room in the inn. You know, the one whose parents will soon become refugees fleeing for their lives. The one for whom Christmas is named. The mass (worship) of Christ – the newborn king. The baby. I have a fair amount of experience with babies. I was honored to raise two and see them raise three apiece. Like many people, I am drawn to babies.
I think that is exactly the point of Christmas. God continually seeks to have a relationship with us. We continually to tend to run as far away as fast as possible out of fear of what that would do our freedom. We like to do whatever we want to do when we want to do it. Handing our fate over to God seems counter-intuitive.
God seeks a mutually respectful, caring, loving relationship with us. So why a baby? Perhaps because most people are drawn to babies like a magnet to a refrigerator door. You can’t ignore a baby. If their sheer cuteness and petiteness doesn’t attract your attention, their crying will. It’s pretty much impossible to ignore a crying infant. Then there’s the fact you can’t tend to a baby without touching the child. You have to get personally invested and up close and personal in order to engage. Initially you do all the work. You have to guess what he or she needs. You do all the talking. You make all the decisions. You are lulled into believing you are in charge. Typically what is taking place is you are shifting your priorities from whatever they were before to focusing on the needs of the baby.
Before you know it stories about the baby are a common theme in all your Facebook posts and conversations. You constantly wonder if he or she is warm or cool enough. Dry? Hungry? You watch the child sleep. You try to coach a smile or response from her when she’s awake. You proudly show him off to total strangers who pause to admire this little guy.
God knows we’re drawn to new life. Babies don’t come into our lives spouting opinions or orders. They come to us defenseless and totally dependent on our response for their survival. As we respond we get a taste of how God is focused on our well-being. In allowing ourselves to experience shifting priorities to accommodate a baby in our lives we get a taste of how God’s priorities are all about us and how we’re doing.
Why a baby? Because babies train us to be more Christ like. Send a prophet spouting opinions and we’ll likely respond by either ignoring the predictions or arguing that the prophet is all wrong and spout off our own opinions. Send a ruler and we’ll argue he or she has no right to tell us what to do and try to over throw the ruler. But send a baby – and we’ll want to pick up the child, snuggle him or her against our shoulder. Then we head for the nearest rocker or we walk back and forth with the child.
Rocking a baby is a mighty powerful cure for the cares of this weary world. In midst of all the busyness we get caught up in this time of year, let us pause to focus on the baby. Let us not overlook the baby. Trees and traditions are great. But there is only one main thing and that thing isn’t a thing at all. It’s a baby waiting to be picked up and cuddled.