The Depth of His Lack

The majesty and glory of Christmas is not found in a sky full of angels or strange moving stars, but in the weakness of a newborn, completely helpless in his young mother’s arms. This is God become flesh? Unable to hold his head up, crying, dirty and completely deprived economically, socially and physically. And yet this is what we celebrate during the Christmas season: not the arrival of a king in power, but a king thoroughly fragile. Not a God who storms into humanity in all his glory, but who has to rely on a very human mother and father for protection and provision.

The beauty of the Advent story in the Gospels, especially in Matthew, is that the fragile child does defeat the king in power of the region, Herod. The story is a contrasting look at the empires of Jesus and the world. And Jesus, like he always does (thank God), wins. Herod pulls all his punches, tries to deceive in order to find Jesus and kill him, murders the children of all the region in hopes of retaining his earthly power and yet the Bible declares with brilliant finality, “Herod died”, while the story of Jesus is only beginning. His birth a vibrant foreshadowing of what Jesus would do on the Cross, His sacrificial love defeating death forever and consequently the power of the kingdoms of this world. How incredible is that?

The tragedy of modern day Christmas is not that it has become so elaborate, but that it has valued the immense over the meager. It is all about big trees, big light shows, big pomp and bigger circumstance and it forgets that the spirit of the season should be a celebration, yes, but a celebration that the Savior, as a newborn at the depth of his lack, would one day conquer death. To quote an old adage, all roads lead to the Cross, not least those which begin in utter helplessness. It seems the antithesis of glory that God would subject himself to all the limitations of humanity from the very beginning but before we recoil at the thought of our Savior lying in a feeding trough at the furthest margins of society, let us not forget what the Father thought about it all when he sent his messengers to proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men”.