December 19, 2014

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Christ’s birth shows us God’s desire to be close to us

Sean GallagherBabies like being carried around. Even when my 1-year-old son Colin can crawl from room to room, climb the stairs—especially when we’re not looking—and is on the verge of taking his first steps, he still yearns to be held.

But kids obviously grow out of this stage. Part of it is that they just get too big to be hauled around. But psychology is involved, too.

As we grow older, we want to do things for ourselves. This is part of the natural maturing process.

So even if it were possible for us adults to be carried around like babies, we’d resist it. We like our independence too much.

Maybe that’s why people who suffer from disabilities or older folks who find their ability to care for themselves degraded can struggle emotionally with their loss of independence.

Babies, on the other hand, don’t have a problem with being dependent. In fact, they seem to crave it to such an extent that my wife, Cindy, and I find it a bit of a hardship.

I know there will come a day when we’ll be sad that we can no longer carry our children. But we’re not there yet.

As Colin has grown over the past year, I say more frequently, “Goodness, you’re heavy,” when I pick him up. And it’s a daily frustration for Cindy to do household tasks one-handed while carrying Colin.

Babies desire being held primarily because they want to be close to other people, and perhaps their mother in particular.

This isn’t surprising. After all, Colin was as close to Cindy as could be for the first nine months of his existence as he grew in her womb. It stands to figure that he’d want something of that closeness after his birth.

Many of these same realities about babies being held, their motivation, dependence and independence can help us see Christmas in a new spiritual light.

Christ could have come from heaven as a conquering hero. Many of the Jews of his day may have expected the Messiah to reveal himself in just that way.

But instead of manifesting himself to the world in a show of force, Jesus came among us in just the opposite way—in a total lack of power. He first showed himself to the world as a helpless, dependent baby who, almost more than anything else, just wanted to be held.

This desire was surely an expression of God’s yearning for us to be close to him.

Isn’t that at the heart of the meaning of Christmas? In being born in Bethlehem, Christ showed us how close God is to us and how close we can be to him.

His birth was the first step seen by the world at large—after his being conceived in the womb of Mary—in healing the breach between God and humanity caused by the fall of Adam and Eve.

The reconciliation of heaven and Earth was finally achieved in Christ’s passion and death when Mary once more held in her arms her son—battered, bruised, dead, but soon to rise to a new and eternal life.

Christmas should renew in our hearts and minds the beautiful reality that, in Christ coming among us, we now can become children of our heavenly Father and be held forever in his arms. †

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