I was going to post a picture of the newborn Jesus in the manger, but most religious art does not do justice to the reality that the Son of God became an honest-to-goodness baby. I blogged about this in 2009.
And so, whenever I give retreats and talk about the Nativity, I quote Fr. Al Lauer, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and founder of Presentation Ministries, who died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 55. His description in one of his daily reflections that appeared in Presentation Ministries "One Bread, One Body," is one of the best that I've come across. He wrote:
"He emptied Himself (Phil 2: 7) when He became a helpless Infant. The all-powerful Creator of the world could not walk, talk, or roll over. The second Person of the blessed Trinity talked baby-talk, wet His diapers, and spit out His food. Almighty God weighed just a few pounds, shivered, cried, and nursed at His mother's breast.
"The message of Christmas and God's incarnation is shocking. He Who created the billions of galaxies with billions of stars, Who created the countless creatures on this little planet, became completely dependent on His parents, just like us. It seems almost blasphemous to suggest that God became a weak human being. Yet He did, out of love for us.... The meaning of Christmas is shocking, but ultimately, it is love."
Yesterday Karen from Nebraska called the Apostleship of Prayer office. Her favorite video among the hundreds of two minute daily reflections that we've produced over the past six years is called "A Helpless Baby." In it I quote Fr. Lauer.
Pope Benedict said a similar thing in his Midnight Mass Homily of 2008. He said:
"God stooped down--he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity's neediness and forsakenness. God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable."
Last year in his Midnight Mass Homily, Pope Francis echoed these thoughts:
"God has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. ... Let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. ... Let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us. ... We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable."
Blessed and Peaceful Christmas Eve to all!