I’ve been watching birds since I was a little girl, so by now I know them by their appearance, by the songs they sing, even by their habits and flight patterns. When I go outside I seek them; visiting wild places that birds frequent. I’ve also made my yard a welcome place for the birds: planting the right native shrubs to give them shelter and food, offering an enticing array of seeds in a variety of feeders, and always providing clean, fresh water.
In view of all this great care and concern for the birds and all the energy I expend on their behalf, you might think that they would show some gratitude. Not so. Despite all my best efforts, they’re scared to death of me. If I so much as stick my big toe outside, they scatter for cover. When I put out fresh seed or change the water they stay hidden and out of sight. When I go looking for them — if I’m very quiet and still and wait for them — curiosity gets the better of some of them and they venture out to investigate. But they’re always tentative and fly away at my slightest movement. Once, a chickadee become entangled in some deer netting and I rushed out to save him. I was as gentle as I could be as I tried to extricate him from the net – all the while he fiercely pecked at my fingers with his tiny beak, certain that I meant him harm. When I finally freed him, off he flew without a single look back at his rescuer. To the birds I am a unknowable force; too large for them to grasp. My actions are incomprehensible. My voice unfathomable. My acts of mercy seem cruel to them; my attention - intrusive. I’ve come to see that the only way to change their perception would be to somehow become like one of them and 'speak' to them in a language they could understand.
I suspect it was something like that, only much fuller and infinitely more enlightened when God devised a plan to approach the creatures he loved, the ones that held Him enthralled. God wanted to be near the beings he made by his own hand and in his own image, and continued to provide and care for.
God made these creatures with the hope that they would respond to his love. Some did, but mostly they feared God. Some were curious, but mostly they ran and hid. God was too large for them, his actions were incomprehensible …his voice unfathomable. They misunderstood God’s acts of mercy as cruelty. His attention was intrusive. So God devised a plan to come to these creatures in a non-threatening way and speak to them in a language they could understand, to let them know he loved them.
Now God being God, could devise any plan he wanted. God could have written his message in the stars – but likely some would have only seen a meteor shower or something like that. God could have spoken the truth out loud, but likely some would have heard his voice only as thunder. God didn’t want to make a big flashy display of his arrival – that would have only frightened his beloved creatures further away, so God decided the only way to change their perception was to come among them as one of them.
Now, imagine, if it had been known that God Almighty was coming to dwell in human form. That might be something terrible – awful, even. To have something as awesome as the Almighty squeeze into human form would almost certainly require some stretching and tearing of that life. At the very least, it would make that life seem unnatural and strange – freakish even, compared with the rest of us. After all, when God filled a bush with his glory, it burned. And when God entered a great mountain, it rocked with the fury of an earthquake. So if God were to occupy a mere person… it’s hard to imagine what sort of mutation that would require.
But here’s a funny thing. This new life into which God came seems to have been the most quietly natural human life that ever was upon the earth. It took its place so naturally, so quietly, just as the first beams of sunlight take their place in the morning. God came as a baby; a helpless human child, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. It was an amazing plan – staggering, really. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.
Once you believe that God devised such a plan — to come among us as baby — well then you can never be sure where God will appear again…or to what lengths God will go or to what depths God might sink in his wild pursuit of us, the creatures he loves.
Christmas celebrates the incarnation of God in human form; of God coming into the world in such as way so as not to frighten us, but to enthrall us so that we, in turn would seek Him. God came into our world in such a way that nothing has been the same since.