Can we let Baby Jesus Grow Up?

30 10 2019

Cross MangerIt’s the end of October and retailers are already preparing for the bustling holiday season!  I’m still enjoying all the mini–tootsie rolls that come out for Halloween, and eagerly anticipating my annual left-over turkey, cranberry. and stuffing sandwich on the day after Thanksgiving.  But with visions of dollar signs dancing like sugarplums in their heads, businesses are already preparing for their most profitable time of the year.

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining.  I’m far from a Scrooge!  I love Christmas as much as anyone — probably more!  And Christmas music will be playing in more car long before many people throw out the rotting jack-o-lantern on their front porch.  But I’m continually amazed at the ways in which the rest of the world gets so wound up over the birth of a baby!

Sadly, for most people, this Holy Day is really more like a holly-day.  It’s a beautiful time of year; full of twinkling lights, the Spirit of giving, eggnog and homemade cookies, and everything else that December brings.  And even if the baby born in a manger is not the focus of the season for most people, the infant child is at least part of the holiday hoopla.  I know it is for those of us in the Church.  And rightly so!

Babies are cute and cuddly.  Their warm and fuzzy swaddling cloths almost make you want to climb into their cribs and fall asleep under the stars with them!  And the Christ-child is no exception.  Renaissance paintings and Fontanini nativity scenes have created a chubby little cherub who is worthy of our praise; with a golden halo, a facial expression revealing more awareness than is normal for a newborn baby, and in whose presence one is quickly reminded of a more divine than human audience.  We, like the wise men, are quick to offer our adoration.

Having just welcomed my first grandchild into the world a little over a year ago, I’m well aware of the power of babies.  I have been touched and moved in ways I never imagined!  But as wonderful as they are, babies don’t change the world.  And so it’s time for all of us to let Baby Jesus grow up?  Before he is even born, let’s remember that Jesus was a man, who altered the course of human history!

My tradition teaches that Jesus is the fullest and most complete expression of God in human form.  And this is not because he was born in a manger in Bethlehem, or because he died on a cross on Calvary.  His expression of God in human form was made a reality because of the way he lived . . . as an adult!  And too often we forget that.  We allow his birth and his death to overshadow his life.  Both Christmas and Easter are important markers in the life of the Church, but Jesus is much more than a baby to be worshipped or a savior to be resurrected!  Jesus is the Christ that we’re called to follow!

Adult Jesus stood up to injustice and challenged the oppressor.  He called the lowly to follow him and the proud to listen to him.  He sat at the tables of sinners and outcasts, and overthrew the tables of moneychangers in the temple.  He taught the poor to persevere and the religious to repent   He offered words of grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery and words of judgement to those ready to throw stones.  He blessed the meek and chastised the merciless.   He comforted the afflicted and he afflicted the comfortable.

Jesus’ expression of God in human form was all about the way he lived; and we who seek to follow him are called to walk in his footsteps.  His life, gives birth to our lives!  And his way, guides our way!  So it’s time to we let him grow up.  It’s time to move beyond the baby in a manger and instead focus on the adult in the market.  It’s time to move beyond the infant in the stable and instead focus on the rebel in the temple.  The Savior born on Christmas night grew up to to challenge systems and structures, empire and ecclesiology, oppression and injustice.  And while his incarnation announced that God was in the world; it was his life that changed the world!

For too many of us, the only Jesus we know is the baby born in the city of David . . . the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths . . . the baby laying in a manger.  We celebrate his birth year after year, but consciously and unconsciously we keep him in a perpetual state of infancy and never let him grow up.

This year, may that not be the case.  Let’s see beyond both the manger and the cross, and prepare to follow an adult.  For as cute as baby Jesus was, he didn’t change the world.  Adult-Jesus did!  And we who are his living body can do the same thing.  But only when we allow him to step out of the stable, and move towards the cross!

 

 


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