Baby’s cry, it’s natural and normal, it’s the first thing we listen for when they are born. Children even want their dolls to cry. And yet when it comes to Jesus we don’t want it to happen and we sing with Martin Luther “no crying he makes…” That disturbs me. Why don’t we think he should cry? Is it because he’s God? Is it because it would make him too much like us? Maybe a bit of both.
Both Catholics and Protestants are guilty here, whether it’s an immaculate conception or some protestant version that just keeps him at a distance from us and our reality. Whatever it is there’s a sense we want to keep him from this world, after all he’s God isn’t he and God doesn’t do that kind of thing. Then there’s this flesh, this human flesh – more, this broken, sinful flesh that is our state without him. Can God really come and take this on?
Yet this is where we must go, without it we have only half a message and that’s no really no real message at all. The radical (to the core) message of Christmas is, God, the One who has no need of anything or anyone, the One who is entirely existent and consistent within himself, took on flesh, the Creator took on that which he created and lived in it – John’s magnificent words stand out, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth.” John makes clear right up front that the Word was “with God” and “was God.” Staggering, but true!
And what about the flesh he takes on? This flesh was not some separated superior form, something better than ours. As the writer to the Hebrews says, “Therefore, in all things it was necessary for him to be made like his brothers…” Not partly, but in every way. As Paul puts it when talking about our impossible situation, “God did by sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh..” Not like in the ‘it’s like it but it’s not actually the same,’ no, this is the real thing. He had to. As Gregory of Nazianzus put it “the unassumed is the unhealed.” Jesus assumed real human, broken, fallen flesh in order to heal and reconcile it. It could be no other way.
“For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as whole. Let them not, then, begrudge us our complete salvation, or clothe the Saviour only with bones and nerves and portraiture of humanity... This, then, would be what he saves; and I have been deceived by the truth, and led to boast of an honor which had been bestowed upon another.” Gregory of Nazianzus, Letter to Cleonius
The Baby’s crying….