Imagine that you wake up tomorrow and cannot recognize where you are. You look around frantically and try to scream out, but all you can manage is a feeble cry. A nurse comes to check on you and—with a shock—you finally recognize where you are: a maternity ward. “There’s been a mistake,” you try to say, “I’m not supposed to be here! What-” She picks you up and tries to calm you down. Only then do you realize that your soul has somehow been transported into the body of a newborn child.
I would imagine that if this occurred to most people they would be somewhat horrified. I say ‘most,’ because it is finals season and this scenario does not sound entirely bad. That said, I would imagine that the experience of finding yourself to be a helpless babe would certainly be a shock.
As unnerved as you might be, however, it does not begin to touch on the shock of God becoming a helpless babe. As His eyes feebly reacted with the light around Him, I imagine He would have wanted to share a few words with Mary, to comfort her from the pains of childbirth, to warn her of the sorrows that would plague her heart, and to tell her that it would all turn to joy in the end. Maybe He would have wanted in that moment to foretell how countless Christians would be lost for words to describe her great submission to His will, but all He could manage to do was cry.
He accepted yet more. He deigned to be swaddled, as if the cold could harm Him against His will. He accepted to be fed, Who fed Israel with manna in the desert. He was held, Who holds the Universe in existence. Maybe in the following days He cried out in the darkness to be fed and waited for His mother to come to Him, though in that very moment myriads of Seraphim cried out to Him—filled in equal parts with terror and with awe— “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and earth are full of your glory!” and worshiped Him with fear and trembling.
There are, of course, some differences. We might find ourselves confined if we were suddenly in the body of a child. Our Lord could have spoken at His birth if He had willed it. He chose not to. He had no need for food as He proved in the desert (Mt. 4:1-11), but He accepted to be fed. Wisdom chose to be taught, though it was Him who taught the fathers of Israel. St. Paul described this event by saying, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).
God emptied Himself, He gave up His Divine prerogatives, but why? He did it because He loved you and me. He Who fashioned the world with His words valued you and me beyond the worship of the angels, “for assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendants of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16). In so doing, He fulfilled the promise He made to Adam, when He told him that from the seed of a woman would come the one who crushed the head of the snake (Gen. 3:15). Even more, “being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8).
This is His extreme humility, that the eternal God willed to partake in my nature and embrace my weakness so that I might be imbued with His strength. He chose to die on the Cross so that through communion with His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity I might gain eternal life, to be with Him forever in Heaven. As we celebrate Christmas in a few weeks and inevitably the thought of unwrapping presents wanders into our minds, I hope we take a moment to remember that Our Lord has given us the greatest gift of all, Himself, so that by communing with Him we might lifted up to His glory.