Recently I was at the home of a good friend. The purpose of my visit was to meet her new grandson for the first time. As soon as I got there, her daughter-in-law asked if I wanted to hold the baby, which of course I did. Baby Noah was placed into my arms and I gazed down at his precious face, marveled at the warmth of this small bundle in my arms. The beautiful baby scent emanating from him was intoxicating. His tiny hands, each finger so small yet so elegant, reached out before me.
I was a bit overwhelmed.
While I am blessed with a remarkable step-daughter and with many nieces and nephews, as well as the numerous children of my friends, I have never had a baby of my own. It was at a practical level that I felt this but also at the level of awe and amazement.
Today is Christmas and I am struck with awe once again by how God came to us as a child! Earlier I was reading something over at Inward/Outward. Writer John Buchanan recounts some words via John Updike. He writes:
"The birth of Jesus contradicts the idea of a God who 'lay above the earth like a layer of icy cirrus' (John Updike, Bech is Back). The birth means that we encounter God, not only in elegant theology but in work and in our enjoyment of beauty, friendship and love--in love particularly."
This God above the earth, "a layer of icy cirrus" is in some ways easier to conjure, isn't it? Or if not that, a stern judge who really wants the best for us, but in a towering and looming and sometimes-more-than-slightly threatening way, kind of God.
God as a baby turns everything on its ear, doesn't it? Unlikely, improbable and exactly what happened.
Like baby Noah in my own arms, Jesus came as the smallest and most vulnerable of creatures. We celebrate Christmas - well, I often do anyway - with faith, but still at some superficial level.
God. As. Baby.
I am reminded of a quote that Father Pat has been struck with lately and one that he used in his own Christmas homily; "Christianity is the attitude of amazement at the dignity of the human person."
The Word becomes flesh and dwells among us. God as a baby - both a source of awe and amazement and a symbol of need, vulnerability, and the vastness of the tiniest person.
I can barely fathom a God who would love us so much to do this very thing.
Once again, through the manifestation of Jesus, we are called to the unlikely, the unexpected and the extraordinary this Christmas and always. As the carol, O Holy Night proclaims, "the soul found its worth."
Amen and amen and amen.