God with us.
A note for Yuletide
Here is what happens. The year is zero, or 6 BC, or 4 BC, or whatever the year was called before we hung everything before and after on its axis. We are in Israel, or Palestine, and a poor Jewish girl lifts her eyes to see an impossible thing.
Do not be afraid, Mary, they say to her.
Highly favored one, the Lord is with you.
Yes, she says.
He enters in.
The stars shift. The universe tilts. The veil is torn open like water breaking and the God of all creation comes hurtling into human history, bound by time and flesh and need and want. God humbles himself—humbles himself, confines and demeans himself. Why? The King of all things makes himself small, for us.
The incomprehensible enters into the inconsequential for love, powerful and all-encompassing.
He is not what we expect. He is born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough; flies buzz near his head, and mildew creeps into the straw, and he is smeared with vernix and his mother’s blood. He cries.
And he grows and he laughs and he sees and hears and tastes; he skins his knees and breaks his bones and collects scars and bruises. He loses teeth and grows new ones. His hair curls. His skin is dark. He learns to be a carpenter, or a stonemason, or a builder. His hands are strong and calloused, patient and careful. He is not handsome, by the standard definition; his face is unremarkable, but love and kindness and the wisdom of eternity shine out of it. He is the most beautiful thing that anyone has ever seen.
He enters in. To history, for eternity—yes, yes, of course. But especially for the least of us. For the people we forget and cast aside: lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes; the poor, the sick, the criminal, and the flawed; the trans, the immigrant, the HIV positive, the homeless.
He is with us, among us. He meets our eyes and touches our wounds and reaches out his hand for ours.
He encourages the poor;
he binds up the wounds of the brokenhearted;
he decrees the release of the captives, and the freeing of prisoners;
he consoles all who mourn.
He sees into us, and he knows us, and he loves us.
And he dies.
He dies broken, and beaten, lungs without air and wounds without blood. He dies truly and inconceivably alone.
He loves us. It’s overflowing. It’s a love bigger than the universe it created, a love that changed the course of our history like rerouting a river. This is the hallmark of the one who rules reality. He is anger and justice; he is power and creativity and truth; he is a devouring fire, and a burning bush, and a pillar of cloud, and an earthquake and thunder and glory and light, and—
And a gentle whisper, a still, small voice, quiet as a breath of wind.
He enters into our hearts, flames flickering above our heads as he tears down the old, rotting walls of our souls, the structurally unsound, cracked, termite-ridden foundation. He takes his carpenter’s hands and he rebuilds.
He enters into our politics, our relationships, our broken systems and impossible situations. He carries mercy, and he wields justice. He keeps his promises.
And here is how it ends.
A Holy City comes down from heaven. It comes to us. God takes his stonemason’s hands and he rebuilds, and there is no more injustice or corruption or pain. He meets our eyes and closes our wounds and reaches out his hand to us. One last time, God enters in—for good, forever—with a love that encompasses, suspends, and sustains.
Behold: the dwelling place of God is now among the people,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God himself will be with them and be their God.
A savior is born.
Cover image by Annie Spratt.