What God As A Baby Says About Burnt Dinner And Broken Toys

 

Jesus, I’ve been waiting to talk to you. Waiting until the topic was big enough to matter. Waiting to hear your opinion on an issue more significant than laundry.

But the other day, while I folded my clothes before bed, I realized something. You’re not simply a God of big, abstract, distant things. You’re a God of the Small and Near.

That’s what Christmas really means, isn’t it? Emmanuel. God with us.

I know the songs and the Bible verses. I grew up around these sacred hymns that somehow lost their richness because I feel like I’ve always known them.

I often relegate you to the invisible, to the Shoulds and Should-Nots. I’ve made you the God of the faraway and celestial things, and in doing so, I forgot to talk to you about how discouraging it is that there will always be dishes at least three times a day, although I know I should be thankful for them. Or the fact that the baby is still sick after two weeks, and I don’t know if I should take him to the doctor or not.

Once again, I was wrong about you. You aren’t a policing theologian with a microscope, identifying character inconsistencies and whispering behind my back about how I should resolve them. Sure, you have opinions about which songs to sing in the worship service, or how to invite people to our small group, but you also know the best way to cook a steak or how to cure my baby’s diaper rash.

And you’re a little sad, as I was, that one of my favorite coffee mugs shattered into pieces at my feet when the baby grabbed it off the kitchen table this morning. But we are both glad no one was hurt.

The pictures we see of you throughout the year are ones of the grown-up Jesus, the teacher and the minister, a kind man but one with many constraints on his schedule. So I try to be efficient because we are both busy, and I don’t need to bother you with the small things.

But Jesus, this is the time of year when we remember you were not always a famous face, a man in demand.

The Christmas story is one we all know because it’s our story. It’s you and us, babies, at our most vulnerable. It’s so extraordinary but we miss it because it’s so close, the story of pregnancy and labor and birth and babies. We know it so we gloss over it, eager for the good part.

But that is the good part. Because what you meant to say by becoming a small thing is you care about all the tiniest things in our lives. The things we think no one cares about.

You are God of the Small and Near.

You are the God of rushing around to stash toys away before guests arrive. You’re the God of dirty diapers and muddy floors. You are the God of cups of coffee that used to be warm but I couldn’t sit down long enough to enjoy it. You are the God of fresh, clean sheets and stubbed toes. You’re the God of the poetry I can’t shake from my mind or the lyrics from that song I remember for years.

You’re the God of sex and so many negative pregnancy tests and finally a positive. You’re the God of the baby who wants to eat all night and the fumbling about in the morning dark, wishing for a few more hours in bed.

You’re the God of missing ingredients in the dinner recipe and getting the dryer running again. You’re the God of the new toy the baby loves and the acrylic paint that almost made it onto the four year-old’s clothes. Almost.

I hate that I’ve missed you in so many places when I thought you were only the God of prayer meetings and quiet times and Sunday mornings. Because you are the God of before and after church stuff, the God of falling asleep with the Bible open and the God of checking my son into nursery after the service already started. You’re the God of the long afternoons after the Sunday meeting because someone just needed to be heard, and you’re the God of takeout on the way home because just the thought of cooking after all that wears me out.

We know you as the man who healed, the God over our bodies and sickness, or the broken man on the Cross, declaring you God over death. And in the garden with Mary, you’re the God of the resurrected life and All-Things-Made-New.

But this morning, in our hearts and our stories, you’re a baby, a tiny baby at the start of your life, and you can’t even hold your head up. You blink at bright lights. Your mother teaches you how to breastfeed. You snuggle in close to your bed made of straw and sleep until the cold or hunger wakes you.

This morning, this Christmas, you’re not an important man with crowds crushed around you. You’re not a celebrity face plastered onto some giant billboard. You’re just a tiny little baby, and anyone could pick you up. You’re at the mercy of humanity, for better or worse, and we can’t believe this is your story because it’s ours.

You’re not just God of heaven anymore. You’re God of my life, my moments, my story.  It feels like you get me, like I have a friend who knows the sting of betrayal or the weight of grief.

As the God of the Small and Near, you are intimately acquainted with my not only my sorrows and successes, my pain and joy, but also my fantasies and boredom and the daily chores that keep this little life going. Every last detail in the margins, the things even I don’t care about, you’ve made your business. You know it, you see it, and you are in it.

Jesus, I’m sorry I’ve missed you in the little, in-between places that make up my life. But I don’t want to anymore. I want to notice your presence alongside me. I welcome you into my daily doings, the sacraments of work and play and sleep and food that make up all my days. I want you to be the God of all the minutes, not just a few of them. I don’t want to crowd you out by scheduling you in.

Please come in to all of it. There’s room for you, Emmanuel.

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