A few weeks ago we were looking at a nativity set with my three year old son, Sam. My wife was pointing to each character so that Sam could name them. When she came to Jesus lying in the manger, she asked “And who’s that?” He answered, “Baby God.” We smiled and laughed. The phrase was strange, jarring, and perhaps even blasphemous. But, then again, so is everything else we say about the Christmas event!
“Baby God” is just a unfamiliar way of stating the mystery of Christmas. Only on account of its unfamiliarity does it seems more strange, more jarring, and more blasphemous, than the more familiar turns of phrase. For the mystery of Christmas is that God became human. And that is a strange, jarring and perhaps even blasphemous thing to say. The one thing we think we know about God is that God is not human. But the Christmas event reveals that God can be what he is not (i.e., human) without ceasing to be who he is (i.e., divine). Every Christmas message, insofar as it is true, declares this strange, jarring, and perhaps even blasphemous mystery.
What makes the phrase “Baby God” so jarring, strange, and perhaps even blasphemous? Well, God is almighty. Deity is defined by might, power and strength. But a baby is weak. Infancy is defined by weakness, impotence and vulnerability. The mystery of Christmas is that the almighty God became a weak baby. The mystery of Christmas is the mystery of Baby God.
Do Christians then deny the almightiness of God? No. But we do redefine God’s omnipotence in light of Christmas. For Christians, God is all-mighty, but he is not only-mighty. God’s mightiness includes his capacity to also be weak. God is so mighty that he can become weak without ceasing to be mighty.
This means that God’s mightiness is not like our mightiness. In fact, the pure mightiness by which we tend to define God is just a human projection, an expression of our sinful desire to not need anyone or anything. The message of Christmas implies that pure might is not divine but demonic. “Might makes right” is not God’s way of being — and neither should it be ours!
This Christmas, don’t shy away from talking about Baby God. Don’t shy away from making the familiar message unfamiliar again. In your thoughts, conversations and sermons, highlight the unfamiliar mystery hidden within the all-too-familiar Christmas message. For the Christmas message is jarring, strange and perhaps even blasphemous. But it’s true! So don’t shy away from finding creative ways to speak the truth this Christmas.
-John L. Drury