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Baby Jesus God

Christmas Day 2011

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Some of you may have noticed that I shortened the gospel reading, ending with the birth of Jesus, leaving him lying in a manger out in a stable. This one day, if only this one day, I want to focus on this babyhood of Jesus. Because when we think about it, the church spends a great deal of time talking about both the divine and human natures of God in Jesus, moreover we then spend even more time talking about how to know or understand that divine nature of God by looking at the life of Jesus. What he does, God would do; what Jesus loves, God loves; if Jesus weeps, God weeps. We are all familiar with this very incarnational theology. Which is a good thing. We learn a lot.

What we do not do, it seems to me, is spend any time looking at the nature of God as revealed to us in God’s first act of self-giving - which is, God as a baby. What might we learn about the nature of God if we didn’t rush past this baby? And isn’t it possible that as people of the story, our story about God coming to us could just as well have begun with a fellow who was at least a young teen, maybe or budding adult? Is it especially telling that our story begins with God as a baby? And is it also possibly telling that we don’t spend much time here? An infant God? This could be disconcerting.

Babies as dewy newborns are first and foremost innocent. Regardless of the teachings beginning about the fourth century, babies are born as innocent little beings. And in their innocence, they trust us. They trust the adults and children who tend and care for them. Is it possible that God’s first feeling towards us is trust? Could it be that God trusts us to actually care and tend God? To be mindful of protecting innocence? To care for creation and each other?

When babies are still so tiny and helpless, they start to smile and laugh, to cringe and squirm with pure delight. Three month old babies smile with their whole bodies. A breath of air moving across their face can produce a belly laugh. And we are caught up in the world of a laughing baby. What if God wants us to know that before rules and laws, before words and commands, there is laughter and delight? What if God wants us to laugh first and before anything else? Can you imagine a God who laughs and smiles, not in a snowy-headed-bearded old man kind of way. But in a bald headed chubby baby kind of way?

And then babies in every culture do the most heart wrenching thing - they reach for us. Little arms extended, begging to be picked up and cuddled, carried and caressed. Picture God reaching for you, little fingers itching for you to come more quickly. Here is a God who wants you. And however much we talk about how deeply God wants to have a relationship with you (and God most certainly does) this way of imaging God somehow transcends even the word relationship. It is more than relationship this baby God wants with and from you. This is pure heart stuff. Pick that baby up!

Oh, and then babies begin the art of naming everything in sight. Pointing with eager bundled energy, little people beg to know what name you give to the world around you. “What’s that?” they cry out. Point and name, point and name. Babies want to be more fully in your world and somehow they start to understand that naming a thing also fixes it, claims it. It is how a baby makes your world also their world. So, here is baby God wanting to know everything about you. “What do you name your world?” God wants to know. “Tell me the name of everything so I can share your language. It will bond us together. I will point, you will name!” Here is a God as we might never have imagined in our wildest dreams. More than accessible, God is a baby waiting on us.

Today, this one day, spend a little time with baby Jesus God (a nod out to Taladaga Nights). Imagine a God who comes to you as an infant, innocent and chubby, helpless and laughing. Imagine a God who yearns for you to pick him up, hold and love. Imagine being the one person who tenderly cares for the needs of this baby God and let this draw you into the love of God in baby Jesus. Merry Christmas.