In our time, Christmas is a lovely thing. It is universally observed as a time for giving, family, good works. Only a little more narrowly, it is the great holy day, brought out as something better than any heirloom or treasure, recognized as the arrival of a singular hero, God Himself.
The comfort of family and traditions veils the shock. Consider the infant!
A baby in the room will elicit warm smiles, soft coos, sure hands to cradle her. The infant receives and cannot offer, cries but cannot articulate, trusts but cannot protect herself from harm.
At Christmas, we are not often reminded that the world is still enemy territory. Christmas is the time when it feels as though the world could be otherwise – perhaps there could be peace on Earth.
But that is not the pretense for the Incarnation. The pretense is that the world is fallen, is in need of redemption. The pretense, as Christ later says, is that men are wicked, this generation is faithless. They cannot grapple with the mess they’re in. It will destroy them.
Now, if you had all power and determined to fight and win this conflict, would you begin by emptying yourself of all that power and appearing as an infant behind enemy lines? This is the paradox that would destroy all reality: That God made Himself utterly vulnerable to death.
That baby in the manger is everything. And he has nothing, can say nothing, can protect nothing.
We with finite powers may begin to answer this: If we had all power, we might storm the earth, take the holy innocents trapped behind enemy lines, and speed them to Paradise. And then, if we had the stomach for it – and we would, being holy – we would destroy whatever remained in water and fire, and begin again.
But who, exactly, would you have rescued?
All are under the grip of sin. None are innocent. You would return to Heaven empty-handed, and turn around and destroy all those you meant to save.
Do you see the predicament? We are willing captives. We choose this every time we sin. Meanwhile, God loves us and wishes to redeem us to unimaginable glory.
If He comes in force, we are likely as not to resist! Our guards go up, and all of the things we value more than we should, all of the priorities we have placed above Him – these things we cling to in defiance of Him.
Not you? Do it now, then. Go where He has been calling you. Give up the sins, give up even the good things which nevertheless stand in your way. Leave all things behind – do not look back – and follow Him.
See it now? You are the enemy’s territory. Your heart is behind enemy lines. God cannot rescue you by destroying you.
Make no mistake. There is evil, and it must ultimately be destroyed. Violently, with a permanence so profound you will not remember it existed.
Yet you are redeemable, and one of the ways you can observe this is by your response to an infant. Do you offer a smile? Does your hope awaken? Would you protect the baby from harm?
It was a master stroke, wasn’t it? God almighty, appearing as an infant invader?
He had to come claim your heart, first. Only then could He lead you out.