When you held your first-born baby, or grandchild, or any infant, you probably did not think, “This is how God was!”
The biblical story tells us about a baby’s birth. During these weeks of Advent, we will read and sing from two famous passages found in the Prophesy of Isaiah. At a time when the people of Judah cowered in fear over an alliance of Israel and Syria against them, the Lord gave a sign: The virgin will conceive and bear a son, whose name will be Immanuel or “God with us,” (Isa. 7:14). Then, these words also;
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.
You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder.
For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! (Isa. 9:2-7 NLT).
Clearly God as Baby!
And so, when the time was right, gospel-writers Matthew and Luke tell their stories of surprise and wonder about a baby conceived and born. Likewise, in his own way, gospel-writer John stresses the same wonder, “The Word became flesh,” (John1:14).
Consider the wonder of God’s redeeming plan: To enter the subverted and perverted human story in the very same way we all do, as baby, and from inside out to salt and leaven it toward forgiveness, freedom, healing, restoration and renewal.
In fact, that was always the story.
Even in Genesis 3, after the great disobedience and defection:
Then the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live.
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.“ (Gen. 3:14-15 NLT)
If our primal parents understood this as we do, I wonder if they thought that Cain might be the One, or if Abel might be. Then, after brother killed brother, perhaps they became convinced Seth would be the One. I wonder if they were impatient for the great undoing of their sin, as we are so often impatient.
Then, when the time was right, a long time later, God called Abram and the people of Abram. Central to the calling was the promise of a baby, but it took a while.
And so, again, when the time was right, Isaac, then Jacob, then … . This story repeats like a long series of summer reruns. Until, when the time was right, God did in fact send the Son, born of a woman … born under law … , as Paul puts it to the Galatians (Gal. 4:4-7). Or, as he writes elsewhere, the One who was God did not regard being God as something to cling to but … was born … (Phil. 2:5-11).
Consider the wonder of God’s redeeming plan: God as baby. The one without limits accepting life with limits. Accepting life with limits, but at first not even knowing it. At first, knowing nothing. At the “end” of his life, there was the knowing-of-nothing that came with death. But at the “beginning” of his life there was the knowing-of-nothing that came with birth.
He who knew everything had to learn everything, but not everything as such. Rather, everything that he was able to learn and discern and understand from infancy onward through intimacy with people and above all intimacy with Father and Spirit.
The “everything” he eventually learned included the way the world was, wrecked as it was, where the Enemy sought to stop Father by pressuring the mid-wives to kill all the baby boys (Exodus 1:15-16), where even God’s people would long to take babies and throw them against the rocks in retaliation against their enemies (Ps. 137:9), where babies are the first to die in the siege and first to starve in the famine, where even the Baby like no other was hunted down by the King and had to be saved to die another day (Matt. 2:12-15).
Consider the wonder of God’s redeeming plan: To enter, to learn to live, to live to learn, to learn obedience through suffering, and then truly to learn it by suffering (Heb. 5:8), and consider the time it took, how long it took … 30 years … then, 2000, and now how many more?
God as Baby. It tells us something about the God who is love. Something about the way love is and does. Something about God’s willingness to wait a long time for as many of the babies to be saved as possible.
Consider God as Baby inaugurating a Kingdom characterized by being child-like, innocent as doves though wise as serpents, presuming nothing but the good that love assumes until it finds otherwise, but then still hoping and enduring for the better things that will surely come when Love triumphs. God as Baby, who does not remain infantile, but does remain child-like, and refuses to adopt the brutal and failed ways of “grown-ups” who imagine they run the world, when it is the world that would run and grind them into oblivion. Consider the child-like King leading armies of the innocent, marching on, venturing out, blessing in the face of curse, rendering good in exchange for evil, on and on and on until a world gone bad in its infancy can be reborn in its old age through dying and rising.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace!