I sit in the dark and hold a tiny baby boy closely to my chest. He is sleeping and his rapid little grunts and snores are the only sounds. I’ve wrapped him in fleece–it’s a cold night and it’s chilly in here. There is a glow in the corner from our tiny Christmas tree and I can just see his fingers curled around my shirt. He holds it tightly as he sleeps. His soft dark hair tickles my cheek and I keep dropping little kisses on his slumbering head and breathing in his warm baby scent. I am clinging to this moment. Soon the sun will rise and the day will steadily bustle on toward evening, when it will be Christmas Eve with a turkey to be roasted and a story to be read to the children–a story to be read to myself.
The story we’ll read is a fantastic tale–about how the sovereign God of the vast universe sent his Son to be born to an impoverished teenage girl (thus joining his creatures in their distress) and to grow up to save them with his innocent blood. God . . . as a helpless human baby. It’s a strange one.
According to this story God chose an awkward place and a most inconvenient time. A unexplained pregnancy was dangerous for the girl. And a woman traveling to an overcrowded village without a room to house her does not generally hope to go into labor. Sometimes when we hear the story we can glamorize the location a bit–candlelight and warmth and animals gently lowing from a distance. But I’ve been in a barn and I’ve seen what lurks in that straw. I’ve smelled the smells and seen animals behaving like animals. And I have a tiny precious newborn that I wouldn’t want to set down on the carpeting in this living room, at least not without a blanket beneath him. Mary did the only thing she could do, really–she put a barrier of cloth around him and set him in a place where he could be up, off of the ground. What an entry for the son of God!
I will read this incredible story to the children. But the funny thing about children is that they accept the strangest of fantasies and the wildest imaginings with little endeavor. It will no doubt seem to them perfectly right that the world’s savior should come in such a way. That he was once as vulnerable as their little brother–and more so, because he was born in a stable.