Did you see the “pictures of my grandbaby?”
I know a little about what that means this year, with a new granddaughter not even a month old. I wasn’t going to be one of those doting grandparents who make everybody look at the pictures, but of course that is exactly what I have become.
There is something extraordinary about a new baby, especially at Christmas time. They are small, and precious, and you are at once proud and protective. You want the world to treat them well, and you want everyone to share the joy. It’s a miracle, and a blessed one.
At Christmas, however, there is a special awareness of what a new baby means. Christmas is, after all, a celebration of a new birth. And the anticipation we associate with Advent, and the whole idea of the incarnation somehow meld with the birth of a new baby–and in silent awe we contemplate the divine mystery that God emptied himself and took on the likeness of sinful man.
Romans 8 tells us: For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. It’s a mystery beyond our comprehension. And like Mary and Joseph and the others, we fail to grasp it.
They no doubt believed themselves quite ordinary, and despite the angels and dreams, experienced the same hopes and fears any ordinary parent would feel. They had their own hardships and expectations, quite human ones. As do each of us when we hold a newborn.
A first child, a young couple, a strange town, an unsupportive family. This is the life of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events, the fulfillment of an ancient promise predestined to sweep away our sins in the overwhelming flood of God’s grace.
And it all starts with a small baby with tiny fingers and toes, cradled at the breast of a young virgin, her flesh torn in childbirth and her spirit lifted in praise for a safe delivery.
The Scripture (John 1 ) tells us that the Word, the expression of God’s nature and purpose, became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word was with God and was God. From the very beginning. And now He was with us.
Mary and Joseph had no idea what that really meant. And looking back over 2000 years later, we don’t either. Not really. But like Mary, we can ponder these things and believe them (Luke 2 ).
And resting in this reality, we can have what the angels promised. We can have peace. And we can give praise.