During this period of what we Catholics call ordinary time I thought I’d do a few reflections on some of the classic Gospel stories starting with The Nativity.
We often see God as we see ourselves. Some years ago I was struck by a religious sister’s response to the question: Who do you pray to?
Her response: The baby Jesus.
Now honestly, up until this point I didn’t think this woman was particularly bright and often she tended towards dominating conversation. So her remark about the baby Jesus was met by a friend by his whispering in my ear:
“Of course! The baby Jesus can’t talk–so he just has to listen to her blather on all day.”
Do we ever place ourselves in that manger at Christmas? Do we ever look upon ourselves as the vulnerable one? Do we dare ever become the Jesus that we gaze upon adoringly each Christmas?
The baby Jesus has dared to become one of us. The God we profess to believe in enters this world as a little baby–who needs constant care by his parents. They will spend every waking hour wondering if he is OK. Checking in those early days on his breathing. Making sure he gets enough to eat (and in early Mideastern culture this was no easy feat).
Do we ever dare to allow someone to have THAT much control over our lives as adults?
The answer not only at Christmas is to see ourselves as the vulnerable little child and God as the God who dares to break into our world to care for us for all eternity. But to do so–God must become like us, be born into our world, and die our human death.
And so, the same is true for us. We will face horrors and one day succumb to our own mortality. And the truth of the matter is that we are very easily forgotten after we are long gone (how many of us remember our great-great-grandparents?). But the truth that we profess is that God never forgets us. God loves us enough to become one of us–to experience the fear of being vulnerable and the very fear that we all have of being a forgotten soul.
God’s response is the fact that he was lying in that manger, in a lowly place, filled with the fear of all of this newness–completely vulnerable to the world around him–and yet still being God.
Yes, the infant Jesus is the vulnerable one to whom we must aspire to become. We place the gift of our very selves at his manger–filled with all of our rawness, our mistakes, our hungers, our fears.
We know not what awaits us–but our faith tells us that whatever may lie ahead that we are able to bring our whole selves to God–even when we don’t think much of who we are. Remember the manger and know that God is with us in all our vulnerablity.