It happened several years ago and if I remember correctly it happened in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
I hate Christmas. Actually, I love Christmas—what it truly is. I should say I hate the Christmas season. I’m a pastor… and at that time, a few thousand folks would come to church on Christmas Eve and hear me preach—folks dragged there by relatives; folks that hated church and folks that loved church; seminary professors and folks that had never opened a Bible; old people, wondering if this would be their last Christmas, and little kids amped up on sugar. And I’d have to preach to each and all, making it relevant, interesting and Biblically sound … and oh yeah, God would be listening. People had high expectations for me–people that thought they knew me but really had no idea who… I am. I felt very important, insecure, proud and frightened all at once, but most of all lonely—really lonely.
That’s when it happened. I went into my daughter’s bedroom to say prayers and kiss her goodnight. Becky was about three at the time.
Sitting on the side of the bed I bent down to give her a kiss. She grabbed my head with those pudgy little hands and pulled it down close against her chest as she said, “I’ll be the big Mommy and you be the little baby.” And for a few moments I was. For a few moments I rested. And for a few moments I was so very completely NOT lonely. I think that’s the best Christmas present that I’ve ever received. She patted my head and said, “I love you, little baby.”
She didn’t know how the sermon prep was going. She had no clue about the church budget. She didn’t ask for anything, demand anything or expect anything… except me, just me. She drank me in and I drank her in. She loved me for who I am. Merry Christmas. “I love you, little baby.”
You know a baby is a fascinating thing—A baby is an “I” without much “me”; a person without much persona; a spirit without much of a résumé; breath of God without much dust. We love babies just because they are. Becky loved me just because I am. And check this out: Becky knew me. She knew me better than any of those folks at church. The great Jewish theologian Martin Buber said that there are two kinds of relationships, “I-it” and “I-thou”. The first is how I know things—personas, résumés and attributes. The second is how I know persons, how “I” know another “I.” Well, Becky knows who I am.
Did you know that “I am”, is what God calls himself? He said to Moses, “Tell them that I AM sent me to you.”
I AM. But you know He also has quite a résumé. He’s extremely important and people demand things of Him all the time. All sorts of folks say they “know Him”, yet I suspect they only know a little “about Him”. In the Old Testament, whenever He shows up people tend to burn up, just from the glory of His presence. “The central theme of the great part of the Old Testament,” wrote GK Chesterton, “is the loneliness of God”.
Does God long to be loved just because He is . . . I AM? Does He long for that kind of communion?
Is God in some way lonely… for you?
Have you thought much about Christmas? It’s an utterly bizarre idea, at least in this world. Everyone in this world is trying to “grow up” and God decides to “grow down”. In the words of St. Paul in the book of Philippians, “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men…” That’s Christmas. God emptied of His manifest glory—His persona, His résumé—wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a food trough, in a barn, inhabited by animals and peasants—His parents!
Why, would the “Ground of All being”, “The Uncreated Creator”, do such a thing? I suppose we could never exhaust all the reasons, but I think I know at least one.
Just think of it. Mary would pick Him up, pat His head, and whisper, “I love you”, as He suckled at her breast. She would hold Him, stare at Him, delight in Him—just that He is… I AM. And when she did, she knew God. I think she knew God better than Moses knew God at the burning bush, better than Elijah knew God on Mt. Carmel, better than the priests in the temple knew God. She HELD GOD and yet she was not consumed by glory and fire. Was that because God somehow said to Mary, “You be the big mommy, and I’ll be the little baby”?
…Whatever the case, I bet He felt so very NOT lonely.
…Maybe He’s lonely for you.
What would God want for Christmas? …Maybe, what He wanted that first Christmas.
And how could you give it to him? Jesus said, “As you did it unto the least of these, my brethren, you did it unto me.”
Well, maybe at the office party, school play or even the Mall, you might look for the last and the least. Then grow down, give them a smile, a hug and maybe even a kiss. Just love them for who they are …or “I am”. For underneath all of that persona, résumé, success and failure is a baby… and in that baby, the breath of God.
What does I AM want for Christmas? The Wisemen brought Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. Stupid Wisemen! What would a baby want with gold, frankincense and myrrh? For that matter, what would God want with gold frankincense and myrrh? See? It turns out that God and babies want the same thing. They want you.