It’s funny to watch how people act when there is a new baby around. Everything stops, and instantly people who were just moments ago interacting as mature adults are now leaning in, making ridiculous faces and silly noises that would never be emitted under other circumstances. It’s a sweet sight to behold. When a baby comes near, we gather around in wonder, awe, and joy. It is a limited phase: at no other time in that person’s life will a crowd of people be awed by watching them perform basic bodily functions, like sleeping.
Even though babies are wonderful, they are helpless. They can’t DO anything for themselves. They are completely dependent on others for survival.
Knowing this, and considering that Jesus came to earth as a human with the intent of saving us all from sin, the question arises: Why would He bother to come to earth as a baby?
Think of it. In all the action movies when everything is going wrong and the bad guys are going to win unless someone steps in, who usually shows up to save the day? Usually someone with physical prowess and some rad fighting skills. Not a baby. It’s a rather anticlimactic way to arrive on the scene, don’t you think? With all the needs that exist on our planet, why wouldn’t Jesus sweep onto the scene of history, roll up His sleeves, and get on with saving the world? Why would God, the One with all the power, entrust us foolish humans with His care? Why would our Creator do Himself the indignity of entering the world totally dependent on the very beings He created for survival?
We can’t know the full reason for this, since we do not know the mind of God. However, we can infer some principles about God from His choice to begin His earthly role as Savior in such an unlikely, humble way.
- First, He shows us the value of every stage of life. Jesus did not deem Himself too important to be a helpless baby, a tumbling toddler, or an awkward teenager. Emmanuel, “God with us,” was not “God with grown-ups;” He was God with all of us, at every age. From conception to adulthood, He joined in the human experience and identified with us at every phase of life.
- He shows us that real power and beauty are not physical. Not only did Jesus arrive as a helpless baby, but in Isaiah 53, it says that He knew sickness as well. There was nothing about His physical appearance that would awe us. The Creator of every human face did not choose the one that could be considered most handsome to wear. His beauty wore a form that not all the world could recognize.He shared our human experience of bodily suffering even before the cross. He was God with us in sickness and in health.
- He shows us the importance of the everyday. Most of Jesus’ life on earth didn’t make it into the Bible. He worked as a carpenter’s son in a poor town, with a life that at least looked normal enough that people from his hometown scoffed when His public ministry begin, saying “Is this the carpenter’s son from Nazareth?” as in, “How can this guy be anything special? We know who He is.” So if it was good enough for the Savior of the world to toil His days in the simplicity of quiet living for most of His time on earth, why do we sometimes feel that we are too good for our station in life – or that our ordinary selves have no value because we’re not making headlines?
- He shows us the power of waiting. This is similar to points above but is worth considering from another angle. Jesus was thirty years old when He began His public ministry. Even with all the pressing needs around Him, the Savior of the world was not in a hurry – at least not in the same way that we hurry. We can be certain He used every bit of His time on this earth in a valuable way, but His timeline was His heavenly Father’s timeline. He didn’t start doing miracles when He was five years old – at least not ones that drew crowds. He lived, quiet and slow, for three decades. We may easily wonder why, as we so often wonder at the mystery of God’s timing. But Jesus was in a rush to do nothing other than fulfill the Father’s desires. We put so much pressure on ourselves to hurry and accomplish all that our culture says is important, yet are we accomplishing the goals that the Father would have us focus on with the urgency with which we attack our to-do lists?
- He shows us His desire for closeness. As we grow older we learn to put distance between ourselves and other people – boundaries and that sort of thing. Kids don’t have boundaries – the more they like you, the closer they’ll stick to you. Generally speaking, people instinctively draw near to a baby. Because of their limited range of focus,you have to get close to interact with them. Maybe the heart of Messiah, full of grace and truth (grace meaning that God bends toward us because He is inclined to bless and be hear us, according to Strong’s concordance), so longed to be close to His people He was willing to be held and cradled by them.
I heard the phrase “this baby born for sacrifice” in a song recently, and it stood out to me. We don’t look at babies and see them as sacrifices. Their softness is meant to be cherished and protected. I thought of Mary, who had the strange burden of knowing that her dearly beloved Child would be the Messiah. I wonder how often the shadow of Simeon’s prophecy that a sword would pierce her soul flickered across her smile as she watched Jesus toddle, play, and giggle. I hope she was given the gift of not fully understanding that the soft hands she held would be pierced by nails, that the fuzzy, sweet-smelling head she caressed would be jabbed with thorns, and that the round cheeks she kissed would be streaked with blood running down them as her innocent Son bled for her own sin and the sin of the whole world. What a strange juxtaposition. What a true, necessary, evil.
We know deep within our hearts that this is not the way it should have been, but there was no other way. And so Immanuel, God with us, drew near to us in every phase of life, and brought the tender dearness of a baby Messiah to remind us that even though evil lurks and looms, He has much better things in store for us and gives us glimpses of them here like lights shining through the dark.
Maybe before He brought deliverance, He wanted to bring delight.
And so He bothered with a Baby.