Children are vulnerable creatures. They are small and soft and defenseless, humans are.
That God would place God’s-self in such a precarious position Is an event which should cause us to stop what we are doing and ponder the kind of love which would inspire such an act. This is the face of a child who is not going to put up with any shenanigans. He is a serious little guy. Humans have strength which is astounding.
Welcoming God as a child takes great courage. It is easy to self-anesthetize by focusing on the window-dressings of Christmas as the church has developed them over the centuries. Pasty, sallow, under-laughed priests imbedded in their church like a poodle in a satin and diamond encrusted dog-house have so tarted up the season with activities which make them feel productive that the vulnerability of the child can be lost in the pomp and circumstance. I wonder what courage it would take to see the dirt under Mary’s fingernails were we to pull aside the brocade in which we have draped her on her thrones. I wonder if the pillows on which church art has placed her feet could be transformed back into the wooden post of the manger or the stone of the cave walls on which her feet were anchored, toes curled, as she screamed in birthing pains. And I wonder if the small child born that day in the city of David, looked past the wise men with their boxes of gold to the sheep which looked at him and loved him immediately, lovingly, sadly – recognizing him immediately as God with the wonder nature can muster at times.
This season, filled as it is with boxes and presents, eggnog and roasts, candy and light is also a time in which some of us feel deep grief and loss. We feel vulnerable to a world which is, at times, confusing and even painful. We feel as alone as this child looks and we feel as strong as he looks too. We are always on the edge of being either open to the world with courage and hope in its human beauty or closed to the world in fear and anger in its human manipulations. We wait for the child to come to save us. We want to be saved, not so much from sin but from pain caused by those around us. This is a season of joy and pomp but it is, for many, also a season when a divorced woman feels the pain of a husband’s infidelity or an employee feels the pain of a boss’s misuse of power, or a mother feels the pain of a gunman in her child’s school or a friend feels the pain of an ex-friend’s rejection and manipulation of something tender.
The day before Christmas Eve is a day of fasting for me. I drink juice and I wait. I try to consider all those who lives have taken turns because of the cruelty or insensitivity of others. I try to pray throughout the day (usually a busy one!) for those people whose lives have been harmed by others – what scripture calls “the holy innocents” which is, interestingly, the first feast of Christmas’s 12 days. Today is a day to stop the action. Just for one day. Today is a day to think on those whose lives are mangled by others and for whom a vulnerable God is strange – even confusing. Today is a day to turn out the lights, eat simply, pour a small glass of wine or a cup of tea and bring to mind one person in our lives whose life has been hurt by another (which is not very hard to find) and pray for them – their vulnerability – their grief – their innocence – because Jesus came for them more than anyone else.
(author’s note: this is the author at the age of one.)