I have been in “babyland” lately. I babysat for a 14 month old last week. I spent this week with my 10 month old nephew.
I love babies. The way their little limbs move undirected as if in their own spontaneous orbit; how they watch their hands and feet as if they are not a part of their bodies; the ways their faces break open in smiles and melt into tears. And blowing slobber bubbles.
I’m enjoying long-awaited my baby-time (hear that Benjamin and Simon? Where’s the next generation / my grands?) …even if there’s a fussy period and dirty diapers.
But, since we’re into Advent, and I’m writing this series of E-pistles on who Jesus is, “babyland” is making me consider perhaps in greater detail than usual the specifics of God coming into the world as a baby.
Ok, infant Jesus makes a lovely image for Christmas cards, a cherubic Christ child in all his variety of representations (well, all that I have seen, except a few icons wherein he looks like a very small, but earnest old man).
There’s just that way in which young children (as well as other young animals) elicit a powerful emotional response in us (or almost all of us, even if you never wanted to be a parent!) I think it’s something evolutionary — one more assurance they will get the care and nurture they need.
It’s sort of a tricky strategy, God coming as a baby — Divinity as “infanticide” (even more than humanity!) is effectively disarming. I mean, God must often enough encounter some defensiveness when approaching us creatures. We get a bit unnerved by all the power and glory! But a baby certainly isn’t very threatening. In, fact, a baby is more dependent than dangerous.
What has occurred to me as I sit here cradling a sleeping baby is how God chose to come into the world in such as way as to make the Divine completely vulnerable to us. When we look to the end of the earthly story, that may not be so surprising.
But God could have chosen to come swooping down through the clouds in heaven’s chariot. Or just showed up, materialized from Spirit, as a full-grown, at the height of his capacities as spiritual savant.
But God chose instead to come through the birth canal. To a peasant mom. And a step dad who wasn’t so sure about all this. In a stable. Into the dark cold night. Into a world, that — so the myth goes — almost immediately was out to get him.
God arrived in the world knowing nothing. Jesus had to learn to talk. And walk. And be potty trained.
And that was just the most basics of the body of knowledge one needs to acquire and handle masterfully well the intricate and subtle interactions involved in engaging and living alongside other people.
But even more than that, God arrived in our world totally dependent. Absolutely unable to survive were it not for the ministrations of others. I am finding that a stretch — but good Advent practice to think of God as a baby:
God with that deep hearty baby laugh because someone is making silly faces.
God pulling a little body around on the tummy, like a sled, because all fours are still beyond coordinating.
God feeling upset, even fussy, so that only being held tight and warm against an other wam body can sooth.
God giggling uncontrollably because someone keeps burying their face in the soft skin (or rolls) of a baby neck.
God needing to be changed and fed and burped and rocked…
It’s a different way of thinking about God… analogous — not surprisingly– to how Jesus should always make us think of God differently…
See you in church,