I am on a double countdown ’til Christmas this year. My new baby niece or nephew is due any day, and the two calendars are racing. Which will make its debut first? Baby Jesus’ birthday, or the birth day of this new baby?
When my sister was little, she prepared for Christmas like it was her job. She convinced Dad to cut down the tip-top of a pine tree from the woods to put in her room, and Mom helped her string lights from her ceiling. By mid-December, Meghan’s room was a full-blown Santa’s workshop. She’d haul up every craft supply she could find and post a note on the door, with dramatic underlines: “TOP SECRET! Keep out.” She’d spend every waking moment the final weeks before Christmas making all manner of glittery cut-out snowflakes and construction-paper ornaments for the whole family.
This year Meghan is doing a different kind of preparation as the days tick down. She’s getting a room ready for the baby. She’s packing a go-bag for the hospital. She’s making weekly treks to the doctor, checking to make sure the baby is in position. She’s prepping two-year-old Addie to be a big sister (including the possibility that, despite Addie’s adamancy that’s it’s a girl, there’s a chance she may be getting a brother).
There is so much we don’t know about this baby. Besides the gender, we don’t know what this child will look like, what kind of personality is tucked into that curled-up body, what this little one will become someday, or how the world needs this child, specifically. And yet our hearts are full of anticipation. So much longing, so much joy over this tiny person, veiled in so much mystery.
And it occurs to me that Mary must have felt much the same. It’s funny, isn’t it, that some of the biggest miracles come to us in such small packages? I wonder why God would come so tiny, so unobtrusive, when He could have come in pomp and circumstance.
In church last weekend my husband played the song “Baby Son” by John Mark McMillan, and I couldn’t help but think of the baby son (or daughter) my family is waiting to meet. So much future, so much hope, packed into seven pounds of flesh.
We thought you’d come with a crown of gold
A string of pearls and a cashmere robe
We thought you’d clench an iron fist
And rain like fire on the politics
Would I have missed Him that first Christmas, I wonder? Would I have been so busy looking for a flashier miracle that I would have overlooked the ordinary mother and her baby? Would I have deigned to believe that God’s plan to save the world could start with something so small?
But without a sword, no armored guard
But common born in mother’s arms
The government now rests upon
The shoulders of this baby son
A field of daffodils begins with a single bulb. An avalanche starts with a tiny snowflake. A classic novel starts with a solitary word. An epic love story starts with a simple greeting. A person begins as a tiny baby.
And the hope for the world began with someone so small you could hold Him in your arms.
God delights in the small things, the ordinary things, the unexpected things. I always thought that was so everything would be unveiled at the right time and so all the prophecies would be fulfilled just so. But now I think there’s another reason too: because God knows we can only handle so much miracle at once. If He gave us the full-blown itinerary, we would melt into a puddle. And so He births some of His most beautiful, magnificent plans as small beginnings.
Have you no room inside your heart
The inn is full, the out is dark
Upon profane shines sacred sun
Not ashamed to be one of us
So I’m spending this season in anticipation, alongside Mary and Meghan. I find myself waiting . . . waiting for Meghan’s baby son (or daughter). And waiting for God’s own Baby Son, who came once and will come again.
Our hearts are ready. We are longing for you. We have made room. Please come!
God’s coming is always unforeseen, I think, and the reason, if I had to guess, is that if he gave us anything much in the way of advance warning, more often than not we would have made ourselves scarce long before he got there.