Isaiah 7:1-16, Psalm 80, Matthew 1:18-25
I don”t think I am the only father who squirmed when he saw his own newborn child for the first time. It took me a little while to begin to feel real loving attachment towards a tiny, funny looking lump of flesh wriggling in an incubator. Father”s experience with a new born child is different from mother”s. Mother has nine months of bonding with her child. But for a father, bonding is an art – a process to learn to connect with his child. You may think that one does not have to learn to love one”s own child. Love for your own child comes naturally, because a baby is the most adorable and lovable. I suggest that it is not always like that. Everybody does not love a new born baby. A baby is very vulnerable. I believe that God chose to come to be with us in a form of an infant child, because a baby is helpless, powerless, vulnerable, weak, and an easy object for abuse and exploitation.
Because we live in Canada, we have no trouble believing that all the babies are always loved and treasured. But that is not always the case. Children are in fact the most deprived persons in the world today. They are not treasured as much as we think they are. For example: We assume that normally people die of old age, and that only a small number of babies die. But this is not the true picture if you look at the conditions in which children live in the world. Fact is; a much greater number of infants die than the number of old people. On the average according to the UNICEF statistics, 44 thousand infants die everyday in the world. We don”t talk about this awful statistics because infant deaths happen mostly in the poorer parts of our planet. They die mainly because of malnutrition. The weakest ones are always the first ones to suffer the consequences of poverty. This was the situation of the children at the time of Isaiah, at the time of the birth of Jesus, throughout history, and I say is the case even today. It is not the universal truth to say that children are always loved and treasured.
Yet, Isaiah dared to predict that a baby who would be born to a young woman would be called "Immanuel". The word "Immanuel" means "God is with us." Why did God choose a new born child as a vehicle to come to live among us? I suggest that an answer lies, among other places, somewhere in the art of bonding with a new born child. By coming to be with us in a form of a new born child, God demonstrated his love by becoming one of the least and the most humble. You can understand the logic of this God”s action when you know how to love. In other words, love is the eyes to see God.
When a father holds an infant child in his arms for the first time, the power of love transforms a "funny little squirming lump of flesh" into the most precious and the most beautiful thing in the world. You can hear him whispering, "I love you so much. You are the most precious and the most beautiful thing in the whole world." It is love that turns a most helpless and unattractive thing into the most precious and the most beautiful. The real test of love is to love someone when that someone is most difficult. When you learn to tolerate a squawking cat at 4 a.m. or a snoring husband who keeps you awake all night, you have begun to learn an art of love. When a baby cries all night or causes all sorts of grief, when your teenage child is determined to annoy you, or when your aging parent is gradually falling into a state of dementia and doesn”t know who you are any more and tells you to get out of the room, and yet you love them dearly, you have glimpsed the sight of God. Love is the eyes to see God.
Another important point is that a new born child symbolizes future. There is no other power more powerful than a faith in the future. When you can see God in the most helpless new born child, you have capacity to hope for the future no matter how it looks grim. That kind of optimism makes the small and helpless the most powerful. On the other hand, when you can”t see an enormous potential in children but see them only as powerless and useless appendix to a society, you are the most pathetic being, because you have no eye to see future. It seemed easy for the King Herod to kill the Messiah when he was a baby together with hundreds of other baby boys as a preemptive action against a future rival, because babies are helpless. But Herod also killed his own future, and is remembered as a most pathetic figure in history. A society that does not put priority in children has no future and is doomed.
God did not come to be with us as an infant child because babies are naturally adorable and easy to love. The child was called Immanuel, because he was vulnerable. Also a baby is not always easy to love. If you love a person who is difficult, you are in the presence of God. During this season of Christmas, let us learn to see Jesus by learning to love the unlovable. Let us learn to see God like Mother Teresa did. She saw God among the poor dying on the streets of Calcutta. After all, the Son of God was born in a form of a powerless and helpless child who did not even have a luxury to be born in a decent house, but was born in a stable among the bails of hay and the piles of manure. God is with us, because He came to us as a baby in a stable.