Today is the day we’ve been waiting for. Or at least I’ve been waiting for. We light the Christ candle. It is now Christmas. I don’t know about you but I’ve been anxious for the last 4 weeks. Anxious to sing the songs and hear the stories and remember the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is difficult for me to comprehend that God’s people waited through 400 years of silence for the birth of Christ. I would bet that every time a new king was crowned, a new country invaded, a new period of famine or drought came they imagined that they were on the cusp of a conquering savior’s presence. And then they got a baby.
It is easy for us to look at the coming of Christ as a baby and make that sound we do when we see a newborn. You know it. You’re probably making it right now. It is the sound of seeing something that makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. This is my usual response to Christmas. The warm and fuzzy feeling of watching the Nativity. But today I am keenly reminded of the frailty of Christ’s birth. In a striking move unanticipated by anyone looking for it, God chose to manifest himself on our planet as the most vulnerable citizen. We don’t have record of the maternal and infant mortality rate at the time of Jesus’ birth but we can extrapolate based on the earliest data we have available. Based on early European data and other modeling statistical methods the best estimate is that 300 out of every 1000 infants born did not live to celebrate their first birthday. That’s 30% of babies. And their mothers. Infection and hemorrhage were common. As many as 25 of every 1000 women died as a result of childbirth during the time that Mary was pregnant. Compare that to giving birth in the US today where, on average, the infant mortality rate is 6 per 1000 and the maternal mortality rate is about 10 per 100,000 women. When Mary accepted the call of God to be the mother of Christ not only did she accept the shame that comes with being an unwed mother in her culture but I’m sure she knew the reality that many mothers and children did not survive childbirth in her community.
It begs the question: why would God choose to become incarnate in the form of a baby? Why choose the most vulnerable way to represent himself? Maybe it’s because God enjoys being subversive. Maybe it’s because no one would have suspected to look in a crib for a savior. I suspect it is because He is in the business of demonstrating to us that power
is made perfect in weakness; that He is best found amongst those who cannot raise arms to protect themselves. Dare I say that if you find yourself looking for a savior who will increase your power, fill your pockets and take down your enemies…don’t look inside the manger. Don’t look in the manger for a savior who will use violence and destruction and despair to bring about his kingdom.
This Savior, the one found in the manger, will be “God with you” always. He will be with you despite your words, despite your actions, despite your selfishness. This Savior will stay close to you in your suffering, He will walk with you in your grief and He will rejoice with you when life is gracious and good. He will ask you to forgive your enemies, to lay down your weapons, to love someone who believes differently than you. He is the Light that breaks through all darkness. If you dare to look for the savior born long ago out in the cold this is what you will find.
May your life be filled with the light of Christ as today we light the Christ candle. May every baby you see today and this week remind you of the vulnerable God who sends a baby in order to bring peace healing and hope to your life. Merry Christmas friends!
photo credits: Pastor Jason, yours truly, shiftworship.com, and the internets.