The Infant Jesus

                                                                       

              There is almost nothing more disarming in the world than a new-born infant.  Even a stone cold heart shatters in the vicinity of a helpless, tiny babe.  Why?  Why do babies have this “power” to make us feel incredibly small?  Perhaps we might think, “We too were once that small.”  We are reminded that this child before us is totally dependent on others and utterly helpless on its own.  Our own fragility is placed before our eyes.  Are we any different than this child?  The Christmas Crèche reminds us this profound reality that He who seems so distant at times, He who we think does not understand us in fact became a humble child so that we might approach Him in a child-like manner.

            We are all invited once again to consider the poverty of Bethlehem.  In a world that is war stricken, the message of the Incarnation, God-with-us, is the same.  In a world where family life is threatened and perhaps your own family is experiencing difficulty, the message of the Christ-Child is the same.  The angel’s hymn, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, gives us the message of peace and goodwill toward men. (Lk. 2:14)  This Child was born to bring peace into every human heart afflicted with sin.

             The Lord Jesus came in the humility of a child to disarm our preconceived notion of God.  He does not come as the political ruler that the chosen people were expecting.  Caesar Augustus imposed peace by force, but the peace and reconciliation that this humble baby would bring was brought about through love and forgiveness.[1]  Pope Benedict XVI said “In that Child… God comes without weapons, without force, because he does not want to conquer, so to speak, from the outside, but rather wants to be freely received by the human being.  God makes himself a defenseless Child to overcome pride, violence and the human desire to possess.”[2] 

                The Psalmist says “He comes to judge the earth.  He will judge the world with righteousness and the people with his truth.” (Ps. 96)  His very first throne he judged upon was the humble manger in Bethlehem, a feeding trough for animals.  Cyril of Alexandria said “He is laid in a manger like fodder for a people who act like beasts.”[3]  The same God who created and rules the universe made Himself helpless and vulnerable “to teach people a new way of living and loving.”[4] 

                “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt. 18:3)  Our God was serious in this statement.  God the Son was born for us (Is. 9:6; Lk. 2:7), in poverty, wrapped in swaddling clothes, which symbolizes our release from the bands of sin that bind us (Bede and John the Monk).[5]  The poverty of the birth of Christ teaches us just how far God is willing to stoop to our level to identify with us. 

                 Everybody’s favorite Saint, yours and mine, St. Francis of Assisi, brought to the forefront of the Church’s piety this profound truth of the humility of God in the Incarnation.  His emphasis on the Sacred Humanity of Christ brought warmth and “heartbeat” back into Christian devotion.  St. Francis knew that you cannot love anything that ultimately you cannot get your arms around.  We cannot love abstractions, only persons.  He wanted the faithful to know that God truly became Emmanuel, God-with-us, and that each of us can experience His closeness if we let down our walls and approach Him as a child.  The humility and closeness of our God is a lesson each of us can benefit.

               Are we willing to welcome the poor Christ Child into our hearts?  Are we going to be like the innkeeper who denied because there was no room? (Lk. 2:7)  St. Jerome says “The entire human race had a place, and the Lord about to be born had none.  He found no room among men.”[6]  Are things any different today?  He who has created each of us individually comes to the door of our own “inn,” our own heart to seek entrance.  Will we turn Him away as well?

               GK “Chesterton noted than Jesus disclosed himself to the humble who knew they knew little and then to the learned who appreciated they did not know everything.”[7]  

               The whole reason we celebrate Christmas is to approach that new-born baby once again and to remind ourselves God is very close to us.  Our God became touchable, huggable and tangible for the sake of you and me.

By Br. John Paul Zeller, MFVA


[1] Alfred McBride, The Human Face of Jesus (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 1998), 26.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, “On the Meaning of Christmas,” Eternal Word Television Network, http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/b16meaningxmas.htm (accessed February 2, 2011).

[3] Arthur Just Jr., ed., Luke (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture), 35.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, “On the Meaning of Christmas.

[5] Arthur Just Jr., ed., Luke (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture), 35.

[6] Ibid., 39.

[7] Alfred McBride, How to Make Homilies Better, Briefer, and Bolder: Tips from a Master Homilist (San Francisco: Our Sunday Visitor, 2007), 116.