My family hits several Christmas-y kind of events each year. And one such event will always stick in my memory. Last year Chuck took the girls to a nativity pageant while I was working. When they got home, I was a little surprised by their reactions. Despite all the hoopla of live animals and multi-member choirs, light shows and fake blue-bearded Isaiahs declaring the birth of the Messiah, there was one glaring and telling reality that summed up the whole of present day Christianity. The first thing my two daughters said when they got home was, “Mom, baby Jesus was plastic!!”
Did you hear me? Plastic. A shiny hunk of pink polyethylene.
Even with their childlike faith and same childlike imagination, the girls were scratching their heads in disbelief. “Why would they do that?” they asked, verging on indignation. Surely as adults we can offer lots of reasons and excuses why they did it. Convenience, practicality, order and control. But aren’t those the very things that God sent Jesus to overturn?
Wasn’t it the absurdity of God born in a babe that changed all life and history as we know it?
The virgin bride didn’t get to consider whether it was convenient.
The betrothed business man didn’t get to waiver simply because it wasn’t practical.
And don’t forget an outraged king shed innocent blood just to control an outcome he couldn’t control.
It makes me wonder if we would even recognize a Real Jesus if we saw Him. Or heard Him. Or felt Him.
Don’t think for a moment that baby Jesus didn’t cry or have hunger or wet His pants. That is how radically God entered His world in our language. He was a helpless babe that we could all relate to — the warm little cuddle against our skin, the sound of His breathing and tiny cries; the delight when eyes meet and recognition sets in. How brilliant is the Lord?
Maybe we should have fake animals and pre-recorded tracks. Maybe the one thing, the most important thing we should see is a baby, a real crying or cooing baby snuggled in his mother’s arms. And maybe the one thing we should always witness is the wonder and wrestling of these new parents as they hold this tiny child in a world full of chaos and commotion. A world like ours. Frantic and confusing like ours. God in our world. Emmanuel.