Christmas for New Birth.
ave you ever held a new-born child? It is an experience without peer. A tiny life. A person in miniature. Holding a new-born for the first time, I was told by her parents to support the baby’s head – a baby’s head is too large for her neck to support at first. New-borns do very little – they cry, feed, sleep and poo. There are no smiles or coos to reward the parent or visitor. And yet it is one of life’s greatest experiences. Parents are driven by biology to protect and nurture their child, but non-parents too can understand the imperative to care for the bundle of warmth that barely fills a hand. To hold a new-born child is to hold something that is simultaneously immensely fragile, utterly dependent and unimaginably precious.
Christmas is when we mark the time that God took flesh in a new-born child. God became fragile, dependent and precious and was born to an unmarried teenager. Some of our carols get it wrong. Little Lord Jesus no crying he makes? Certainly not! Babies cry to be fed, to be changed, to be held. Jesus needed all of these, he would have cried. The Gospels are more realistic. There we read that Joseph thought of leaving Mary; that birth was not welcomed in the house, but with the animals; that the so-called wise men nearly brought disaster in the form of Herod’s murderous wrath; that Jesus and his family fled as refugees from violence in their home country. We also read of Mary’s care for her child, and her treasuring of all that happened. The fragility and dependence of God on his mother is a source of wonder, an image of the Word made flesh, God become human.
We are to be born again. To be new-born into the world. Sometimes this sounds like we have been given super-powers, a new suit of armour to deflect the challenges and pain that might come our way. But to be new-born is to be fragile, easily broken by what others do. It is to be dependent on others for care and food. And it is to be precious beyond price. We need to acknowledge our fragility and dependence, not to guard against it. It is in our fragile and dependent state that we are precious. Can we celebrate this Christmas that our preciousness is found in being fragile and dependent?
In Jesus, God shares in our humanity and became a child. In Jesus, we are new-born into the kingdom of God. We are immensely fragile, utterly dependent and unimaginably precious.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18.1-5).