I am a new, proud, doting, first-time Father. My wife and I have a seven-month-old daughter who is filling our lives with joy and sleeplessness and also making me realise I am way soppier than I ever thought I would be!
This week we took her to a candlelit carol service. It was way past her bedtime, but we wanted to do something festive together. And sure enough, she loved it. I held her in my arms as she looked wide-eyed at the flickering candles and seemed mesmerised by the soothing choral music. If you’ve never sung Christmas carols whilst holding a baby, I highly recommend the experience. Beg, borrow or steal one. (Please don’t steal one!)
We sang carols I’d sung a thousand times. We heard readings I could almost recite backwards. The content was so familiar to me, and yet there was something magically different about the whole experience. More acutely than ever I was struck by wonder at the idea of the incarnation. God became a baby!
Holding this little life in my arms as I sang ancient carols made me marvel at the absurdity of the Christmas story.
- God was reduced to a wordless, gurgling form – utterly helpless and vulnerable.
- God put on weight and made his dad’s arms ache from holding Him for prolonged periods.
- God went through teething pains and inflicted sleepless nights on His parents.
- God threw up on His mum’s clothes, and then as soon as she’d changed them, He did it again!
God became a real-life, fleshy, cuddly, vomiting, human baby!
As we sang, I found myself rolling my eyes at lyrics I’d thoughtlessly uttered so many times previously: “But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Yeah right! If Jesus was anything like my over-tired daughter, he probably saved up his tears for the most inconvenient moment – screaming in the middle of a quiet choral performance, and making his dad smuggle him out of the room to avoid the glares of the other carol service attendees! For example!!
But I also found myself choking up at the idea that God entrusted himself to the arms of first time parents. I often feel pretty clueless about this whole parenting thing. Even with the assistance of NCT classes, midwives, parenting books, and Google, I know there is so much I don’t know, and I look at more experienced parents of multiple kids with a sense of awe, wishing I could absorb their wisdom by osmosis.
Yet God entrusted Himself to someone just as clueless as me. In fact, to a couple who weren’t even planning to have a child!
In his brilliant book Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch explores the themes of authority, which he defines as ‘the capacity for meaningful action’ and vulnerability, ‘exposure to meaningful risk.’ He writes:
Of all the creatures in the world, only human beings can be naked. By adulthood, every other creature naturally possesses whatever fur, scales or hide are necessary to protect it from its environment… The unsettling truth is that just as human beings have more authority than any other creature, we also have more vulnerability than any other creature. We are not just born naked, we are born dependent, exposed in every conceivable way to the possibility of loss.’ (p44)
As I stood in a candlelit church, I was struck by the sleepy, gurgling, helpless, incredible paradox that I held in my arms. So vulnerable, yet so precious. The handiwork of her Creator, designed to do good works that her Heavenly Father has prepared in advance for her (Ephesians 2:10).
And I was also struck by the fact that 2,000 years ago a couple of clueless first-time parents held a similarly sleepy, gurgling, helpless, incredible paradox in their arms. God became a baby.
If I’d been God I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have done that.
So often, through the things I invest my time, energy and money in, I try to remove all vulnerabilities from my life. Many of us do. We’re scared of weakness and try to avoid it at all costs. But in so doing, we actually become less than human. As Andy writes,
The only thing money can buy is bubble wrap’ (p76).
Wealth cannot remove our vulnerability. The best it can do is wrap us up in so many layers that we no longer feel vulnerable.
But in the story of Christmas, the One who has all the resources of Heaven at His fingertips chose not to use His unending wealth to insulate Himself. He demonstrated that He was no distant, disinterested deity. He embraced humanity in all its fullness, shunning the bubble wrap and entrusting Himself – naked and vulnerable – to the care of thoroughly unqualified parents.
As a similarly unqualified parent, I can’t help but be moved by that!
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!’
This post was originally published at Segment