I have come to worship.
I find myself in a dirty, smelly, noisy hole in the ground, lit by guttering lanterns and crowded with sleepy animals. But the revulsion is momentary: I have come to worship.
There he is: a baby. A newborn. He doesn’t smile or sit up or coo or any of that yet. He sleeps, cries, and sometimes looks out alertly at the world, but that’s about it. And he’s the king of the universe, incarnate God.
I fall on my knees before the feed trough, the one relatively clean spot his mother could lay him so she could take a nap. He’s swaddled up tight, to keep out the cold and to prevent him startling awake. Nonchalant in his helplessness.
I’ve come here to worship the God of the universe, and this is what I find. A second of incredulity is followed by a startling, but complete conviction:
I’m the weak one.
I’m the one who can do nothing without help. I’m the one who can’t even feed myself unless I’m provided for. I’m the one who knows nothing of the world unless someone tells me. I’m the one who can go nowhere unless I’m carried. I’m the one who is too ignorant even to look wise in my silence. He’s the baby, but I’m the helpless one.
So, I do the most logical thing. I climb in.
We’re the same size now. He doesn’t seem large; he seems just right, like he always does. Everything else, though, is suddenly revealed as enormous, incomprehensible, and intimidating. Until I look back to him. He opens his brown eyes and looks into my green ones, and tells me a baby’s secrets.
He shows me how to look at the whole world with alert curiousity, and no fear. He teaches me how to rest whenever rest is needful, even though that seems like a lot to everyone else. He demonstrates how to cry out shamelessly for help, in confidence that his parents will respond.
Most of all, he trusts. To this incarnate God-baby, his mother’s warmth is his whole world, incarnate to him of his Father’s love. That is the best thing he teaches me.
I used to trust like that. But like all babies, I grew up. Like all parents, mine were imperfect, and I learned to distrust, to shy away, to defend myself, to suspect. Not knowing God to be any different, I thought him no different. Above all, I learned to fend for myself, to trust myself, to do for myself. Growing up in a world of sin, I learned to survive on self. Self is the opposite of trust, so I forgot it.
This baby grew up too. He gained a serpent’s wisdom to go with his dove’s innocence. But he never forgot how to trust his Father. He never stopped crying out to him, resting in him, being fed by him, and seeing the world from the vantage point of his arms. He became strong, strong to overcome every temptation, because he stayed a baby.
We are the adopted children of his same Father, given the right to call out to him too (Galatians 4:3-7). So this baby is not ashamed to call me his sister (Hebrews 2:11-12), and I belong here in his makeshift cradle. He will tell me, in a newborn’s gurgling songs, of his Father’s greatness.
This is my meditation for this Christmas season: there is no shame in being weak. There is no uselessness in being always a beginner. There is no waste in rest. There is only proper humility in admitting ourselves even weaker than the baby who is God, who became weak for our sakes. May I learn from him how to be weak, how to rejoice in my weakness, because it untangles my self’s self-making, and frees me to be enfolded in my Father’s arms.
From that perch, I will be made strong to do all things – even to follow in my Brother’s footsteps, and lay down my life for my friends.