Beyond the Baby

My husband and I have differing taste in movies. I like somber, based-on-true-stories movies, while G’Joe loves a good light-hearted, ridiculous flick. Needless to say, finding common ground so that one of us is not irate or sleeping the whole time we watch a film is a challenge. I needed to share that so you won’t judge me (or more like so I won’t judge myself) for having watched Tahladega Nights a few times. In this movie there is a scene that is both hysterical and haunting (actually that could be true for many scenes). As the family is sitting around about to eat a meal, Will Ferrell begins to say a blessing.  He prays, “Dear Lord, baby Jesus” which ignites a debate about which Jesus to pray to. Ferrell says, “Look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I am saying grace. When you’re saying grace, you can decide who to pray to.” The family then goes around the table and talks about how they like to picture Jesus, Jesus in a tuxedo shirt, samurai Jesus, and so on. And Ferrell concludes by praying to “Dear 6 lb 8 ounce newborn infant Jesus…thank you for all your power and grace, dear baby God.”

Obviously, this is an extreme caricature, but what haunts me is the kernel of truth it is embellishing. I’m not saying that most people picture Jesus in a tuxedo suit or in a dojo; however, there is a sense in which people love to celebrate and enjoy only a chosen sliver of Jesus’ life. I read a challenging poem about a year ago that has been similarly haunting to me. Because of the onslaught of the Christmas season, I wanted to share it.

It is as if infancy were the whole of incarnation, by Luci Northcote Shaw

One time of the year

The new-born child

Is everywhere,

Planted in madonna’s arms

Hay mows, stables,

In palaces or farms,

Or quaintly, under snowed gables,

Gothic angular or baroque plump,

Naked or elaborately swathed,

Encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,

Garnished with whimsical

Partridges and pears,

Drummers and drums,

Lit by oversize stars,

Partnered with lambs,

Peace doves, sugar plums,

Bells, plastic camels in sets of three,

As if these were what we need

For eternity.

But Jesus the Man is not be seen.

We are too wary, these days,

Of beards and sandalled feet.

Yet if we celebrate, let it be

That He

Has invaded our lives with purpose,

Striding over picturesque traditions,

Our shallow sentiment,

Overturning our cash registers,

Wielding His peace like a sword,

Rescuing us into reality,

Demanding much more

Than the milk and softness

And the mother warmth

Of the baby in the storefront crèche,

(only the Man would ask

all, of each of us)

reaching out

always, urgently, with strong

effective love

(only the Man would give

His life and live

Again for love of us).

Oh, come, let us adore Him –

Christ – the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good creche. But I need to be reminded that Christmas was simply the beginning of the life of the God-man Jesus, “the one who has invaded our lives with his purpose,” who forces us to see ourselves and humanity through the most realistic, yet hope-filled lenses. We don’t like to be addressed in our sin-sickness, our weakness or our superficiality, but this is exactly what Jesus lovingly does. He came to earth to be the perfect full-orbed humanity that we fail so miserably to be. And this is our deep and abiding hope. This is the legacy of Christ, the Lord.

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