I agree with C.S. Lewis who asserted that the greatest miracle was not Jesus' virginal conception, nor his resurrection from the dead, nor any of the other manifestations of power in calming the forces of nature or healing the brokenness of human bodies, minds, and spirits. No, the greatest miracle is the incarnation. The most jaw-dropping and eye-popping feat of all came when God somehow, some way became human–totally human, yet nonetheless still God. Accomplish that and everything else becomes cake. Assuming that's what's going on in Jesus of Nazareth, conception in a virgin's womb, corpses reanimating with life and many other wonders follow as a matter of course. To my mind, Lewis goes to the core issue and nails it.
And what a wonder that the eternal One should embrace tiny temporal parameters, that universe making and unmaking power should assume the frail vulnerable form of a new born baby, that Transcendence should manifest in stunning immanence, that unbounded wisdom should enter the fog of ignorance and the smog of deception, that LIFE should accept conditions devolving into a sentence of death! Well, such wonders multiply with no end in sight.
why? For none of the reasons that usually motivate our kind. Not because God could–just to strut the divine stuff. Not because God must–to satisfy some lack or deficiency. No, only for the sake of the human family with which God so wondrously identified and then entered, only to bring the healing and the renewing so essential for the family to realize its destiny.
Which was and is? God said, "Let us make the human being in our image and likeness," and so God did. And, then, those whom God called he justified, and those he justified he glorified, so that they might be conformed to the image of his Son, this Jesus who was and is God incarnate, God-become-like us. So that, as we center our focus on this one–on God-become-like us–we ourselves are being changed into the very same likeness, from one degree of glory to another.
God became like us so that, as God always intended, we may become like God–like God in love, for God is love; like God in preferring, embracing and walking in the light, for God is light; like God in passionate pursuit of the good, no the very good, as it was once upon a time when God had finished making all God had made through the Son by the power of the Spirit–God finished it and God said, "Ah, this is very good!" God became like us so that we become like God in passionate pursuit of the "very good" sounding forth over the whole of all God once created, is redeeming, and will recreate.
And, somehow, it spins out of this central wonder and miracle: God-become-like us in this little baby, so we become like God, first as a little baby, for no one enters without turning and becoming like a child, without rebirth to a living hope–first as a little baby, then in all ways cooperating with loving kindness and latent powers to shape a life in God-ward ways.
One of the best things to happen this year (2009) in our faamily was the birth of another baby: Ryland Kendall Pastor, our first grandchild. What a wonder and miracle–for this little person to emerge in delivery and then emerge in development. (Again, to think GOD becoming like this simply blows the mind!) As I write, Ryland is well on the way toward his full human potential. Amazingly, he contributes almost nothing to this development–most of it is done for him by his loving human parents. We are told that the most profound, life shaping things will already have occurred by the time Ryland is aware and capable enough to make choices or take actions. But there are just a couple things even baby Ryland does.
One, he gives full and sustained attention to his care-givers–I mean he gazes at their faces, he reaches out clumsily to touch noses, cheeks, ears and lips of the one holding him. He strains to focus attention to their every move. He echoes back their sounds as best he can. Nothing delights Ryland more than to be in the presence of those who hold him, care for him, and attend to him in every way they can (I might also add nothing delights them more!). And nothing seems to distress Ryland more than to lose sight of them, to be denied their attention.
That reminds me of the other thing even baby Ryland does. Shamelessly and spontaneously, he cries out whenever need or perceived need assaults him. In time, Ryland will have words that better articulate his cries. He will name the source of his help, and will develop a full vocabulary for disclosing his situation more clearly. Even so, he will seldom exceed his current grasp of just how utterly dependent he is upon those who care for him!
The greatest miracle and wonder is God became like us so that we might become like God. I am realizing that even in his weakest, smallest, and most vulnerable form, even in the helplessness of infancy, Jesus reveals the way and invites us to his way.
As Jesus once did and as Ryland now does, Jesus' way is to offer rapt attention to the face of the Care-giver, to reach out clumsily toward the Face, to strain to feel its contours, to learn its shape, to delight in its expressions. There I fix my gaze, refocusing repeatedly as necessary hoping for a clearer and sharper image. I listen for the sounds of His attentiveness and echo them back. I do not hesitate to cry out in my need–whether real or just perceived. I trust. I rest. I sleep. I wake. I am cared-for. The most important things, the essentials without which all latent powers and developed prowess can accomplish nothing–come as gift. I am grace and grateful. I am content.
At least, miracles of miracles, because of that baby this is the way open before me and us. This is the way we are invited to live and walk now and always.