Our Naked and Vulnerable God
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:4-7
How many times do we hear these words during the Christmas season? They inspire the nativity sets around our homes and are re-enacted through children's Christmas pageants. Symphonies, christmas carols, and art is created to try to capture the magic and mystery of this Holy Night when God became man. But even with reminders all around us during this season, it is far too easy for me to move through these holiday moments without soaking in the reality that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, Jesus, and laid him in a manger.
If I were perfectly honest, I have spent a lot more of my life picturing the Jesus I love as a full grown man. When I picture the Jesus I worship, he is the Christ who died on the cross, the God-man who turned over the tables in the temple, and the great teacher who gathered crowds by the thousands. He is the all powerful God and who incarnated to heal the sick, who touched the lepers, who shared meals with his friends. I picture Christ the God-man as the one who was powerful enough to stop the crucifixion, yet willingly chose to submit himself to God the Father and bear the weight of our sins.
But then there are these precious verses in Luke chapter two that describe Jesus, fully God and fully human, as a newborn child. Helpless. Weak. Completely dependent on his mother and father for warmth, food, touch, shelter, and soothing. There is something very jarring about this particular imagery and it reminds me that this vulnerability Christ entered earth in as he took on flesh is one that never left him even as he began his ministry as an adult. He truly was fully human in every sense of the word, even while remaining fully God.
It feels God-like to think about Christ’s ministry on this earth. But Christ as an infant? Christ nursing, crying, needing to be swaddled, it just feels so…human. As much as I like to talk about Christ being fully God and fully man, I probably spend much more time thinking about Christ being fully God. It is when I reflect on God the Son being laid in a manger, fully dependent on human, imperfect parents that I realize how uncomfortable I can feel with Christ’s humanity.
What continues to become more mysterious and special about the discomfort Christ humanity can stir within me is that it is in these very special places of discomfort within me that Jesus longs to make his home. In the midst of my weakness, powerlessness, and frailty I find it more and more precious that God came to dwell with us and bring light and hope through something as ordinary and vulnerable as a baby.
This is a season to think and praise God for his humanity. It is a time to reflect on the power and glory of heaven emptying himself to become....a baby. One moment, Christ was sharing perfect, eternal, complete union with God the Father and the next he was growing within the womb of Mary. It is miraculous, mind-boggling, truly foolishness if we think about it through the world’s wisdom. But this wonderful miracle is exactly what allows us to now relate to Christ as brother. He is one who we do not just treasure because of his strength, power, and glory. He is also one we treasure because of his weakness, frailty, and suffering. The manger is where God dwells with us first and foremost as a naked and vulnerable newborn infant and he continues to be constrained by weakness and human limitations for the rest of his time on earth culminating in hanging on the cross 33 years later, naked and vulnerable.
In the midst of busy schedules, extra events, parties, bright lights, and overstimulated senses the soft glow of the manger whispers to us to come and kneel down before our God. The manger asks us to approach with all that makes us feel strong, competent, powerful and look into the face of our Savior- a weak, dependent, naked infant. It reminds us of our frailty and asks us to trust in this miraculous soft tender moment more then the best that we have to grasp for our own salvation.