Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Holding the mystery of the incarnation in my arms

For the second time in my life, I am blessed to hold a newborn baby in my arms during the days leading up to Christmas. My daughter Gretchen was born on December 5, 1978. 39 years and one day later, she gave birth to her second son. Nothing humbles me like holding a tiny baby during Advent as I ponder the mystery of God-with-us.

Just as I did with his mother, I rock Justin to sleep in the glow of Christmas tree lights singing, “Silent Night.” And I think about how Jesus began his life in much the same way. With teeny-tiny fingers and toes. A soft spot and fragile little neck that couldn’t support his head. Crying when he was hungry, or wet, or tired. Nourished by his mother’s milk. Cuddled into contentment as he “sleeps in heavenly peace.” I hold him and ponder, How could the Creator of the Universe become so vulnerable, so helpless… so small? 
When my daughter was born, my heart was so full that I couldn’t imagine how it could ever hold as much love for any other human being as it held for her. But along came my son Ben, and I realized that I had been wrong. Yes, I could love another human being just as much as I loved my daughter. Who knew my heart was so big?
Then, with the birth of my first grandson, it happened again. I felt my heart swell and I couldn’t imagine how I could ever love another person the way I loved Nicholas. And yet, by golly, it's happened once again as a six-pound bundle named Justin holds my heart in his miniature hands. It astounds me to experience how the love of each one of them fills my heart completely, while the love of the many doesn’t diminish the love of the one. 
What I appreciate most about being a parent and a grandparent is the transformation it stirs within me. God knows I’m far from the most loving person in the world, and yet my children have stretched me to love in a way that is far beyond me. It brings me as close to divine love as I have ever experienced. Even at that, I know that God’s love for us far surpasses anything I could ever grasp. It’s a parent’s (or a grandparent’s) immeasurable love for one newborn baby extended to every baby ever born. 
More than just a mushy feeling, it’s love that empties itself completely for the sake of the beloved. That’s the wonder of the incarnation. It’s the hope of all the world entrusted to the world. The God of Love trusting in the love of humans. 
The sheer humility of the Word made flesh humbles me. I can hardly get my mind around it. And yet, when I’m holding my newborn grandson, somehow in a way that transcends language or reason, I feel like I am holding the mystery of the incarnation in my arms.

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