Photo Credit: Sandy Normand
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory . . .” (Jn 1:14).
With the whisper of an angel, God himself became an embryo, humanity and divinity swirled and swallowed in the secret of Mary’s body. All the mysteries of heaven and earth were contained in the beginnings of flesh, in blood and dividing cells, a tenuous promise of eternity and mortality.
This life-changing life begins with a pregnancy, as all human life does. Mary gives herself over to the pain and possibility of parenthood. She knows the secret and participates in revealing it to the world, one person at a time: Joseph, her parents and siblings, Elizabeth and Zechariah. She eats and rests, works and waits, letting it be done in her, longing for Jesus and simultaneously holding him.
Mary and Joseph plan for the long trip to Bethlehem for the census. Mary, late in her pregnancy, climbs on a donkey and Joseph leads them to their destination and into labour. Straw and water, sweat and tears, tiny cries and the coming of milk and shepherds and wisemen — this is the stuff of Incarnation, of God becoming flesh.
And he lives among us. Tucked beneath the clothing of his parents, he flees the terror of Herod’s violence, a refugee to Egypt. The newborn Jesus is blissfully unaware that his birth is anticipated by the kicks of his cousin John, celebrated by angels, and the beginning of the dying and the rising that will change the world. He eats and sleeps, cries and learns to smile.
He grows and gains favour with God and his people, by waking with funny hair, finding his voice, learning to laugh. Jesus, Prince of Peace, learns to share and use his words. He plays with dishes on the floor, comes in at night with tiny dirty feet. He asks question after question while he watches Joseph work. He asks why the sky is blue and can he have a snack and can’t he have a baby for his birthday?
The Christ Child climbs trees and Mary tells him to be careful. He skins his knees and gets left out of the game and comes home with tears in his eyes. He gets lost in his father’s house and says he is sorry for scaring his parents and grandparents. In the confusion of puberty, he aches to belong and longs to be able to carry the burdens of his friends. He knows the limits and loneliness of his own skin. Our teenaged saviour wonders what God wants for his future.
Jesus learns. He imitates Joseph and wanders in the desert. He prepares food and eats, sits at tables and talks in the early morning and in the evening. He does a day’s work and he sleeps. What hobbies made filled his heart with joy? What birdsongs woke him? What storm startled him and what sunrise calmed his fear?
For 30 years he lived among us, like us, day after day after day. Christmas births a lifetime of daily work and play. He grows, his infant hands giving way to fingers full of weed-gifts making way for digits tracing the scrolls in the temple. Those tiny hands trembling in the desert before they hold the mud and trace it over a blind man’s eyes. Barely aged by years or weathered by work, those hands stretching out for nails.
This work — this daily work of rising and eating, growing and learning, holding hands and hearts. It was Jesus’ work and it is also our work. The work of humanity and God, getting groceries and giving grace. From conception and birth, he lives like us and he shows us how to live.
Who am I, that I am graced with a birth and a life like his? Who am I, that I am graced to grow and to learn, to get up today and love my family, call my friends, serve my neighbours? Who am I, that I should be so blessed by the ordinary things that this today holds? I am. I am his. I am waking in the night to hold babies and dry tears. I am washing dishes and socks. Hundreds of socks. I am holding my tongue and asking for forgiveness. I am unwrapping gifts and moments, walking faithfully into the plan he has for me, letting it be done in me.
Because all too soon, living like Jesus will lead to dying like him. But not yet. For on this day, a child has been born to us, we get to see his glory in these Christmas days. May we marvel at the miracles Jesus brings today and sing Gloria because he comes. Again. Here. Amen.