This Child

manger2She looked him over, from the top of his tiny head, to the soles of his wiggling little feet.  Ten fingers, ten toes—all parts accounted for.  Perfectly formed.  Perfectly normal.  She wrapped his wriggling body in a rough blanket.  So small.  She held him against her, feeling him struggle and whimper at this latest outrage.  Fists waving, eyes squinting and unfocused and then, the crying began.  His wails were out of proportion to his little body, piercing the cold midnight with their insistent “I am here!” declaration.  Was he hungry, she wondered?  Cold?  Wet?  She begins to learn about this new person in his first few minutes apart from her body.  This child may be helpless and dependent, she thinks, but he is certainly not passive.  She smiles and remembers his beginnings inside her, that moment of aching, unknowing hope that took root and grew within her.  Now, here he is—crying and demanding and separate from her.  And she wishes she could keep him safe forever.
 
As for the child, his world is a much smaller and much simpler place than hers, at least for now.  He wants warmth and food and human touch.  He shamelessly demands your attention to him.  A Jewish infant, he is completely unconcerned with the politics, religion, or ethnicity of his comforters.  His mother is an unmarried teenaged peasant, but he wouldn’t care if she’d been born a princess or a courtesan.  Some shepherds are coming to visit him, but their lowly vocation and social status are of no concern to him at all.  He’ll be visited soon by three pagan strangers from what is present-day Iraq, but their expensive gifts won’t impress him.  Everyone gathering to see him comes laden with their own complicated personal histories and predicaments.  Each one has questions and doubts about him, born of their own issues and weaknesses, their own personal sins and woundedness.  None of this concerns the child.  What he wants is their love.  Unquestioningly, he reaches out to each one in their turn, seeking out their humanity, desiring their touch.  A tiny hand seeking them right where they are.
 
Soon, he’ll grow up.  A king will try to kill him.  His family will have to become refugees on the run just to survive.  His parents will worry for him beyond our knowing.  He’ll grow up to quit the family business and hang out with an odd circle of friends.  His crowd will include a variety of shady characters, including prostitutes, radicals, tax collectors and drunkards.  He will get into big, big trouble.  He’ll confront those in power with an unyielding will, a fierce tongue, and a turn of the cheek.  In the end, his friends will desert him and his foes will seemingly destroy him.  In the more distant future, his life will inspire a faith that will transform the world.  His name will be a source of blessing and will also be used to wage wars.  But not tonight.  Tonight he’s a baby like all babies, innocent and a sign of hope.  Tonight he’s just like any other newborn—both nothing special and seven pounds of pure miracle.  The Word made flesh welcomes everyone at His manger.  He simply wants you to come as you are and to be there with Him.  Let your praises to Him be your deepest longings.  Let your prayers be your wholehearted attention.  Let your hymn be His lullaby.  And your Christmas gift to the King of Kings?  Yourself—whoever you happen to be, however you happen to be.  Love this Child as He reaches His tiny hand out to grip your finger.  The great I AM is looking up at you tonight.

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