Day 17. Blessing Our Complicated Life

[No Plastic Children, Johnny and daughters, Elicia Claffey private collection]

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation, because all things were created by him…. He existed before all things, and all things are held together in him. (Colossians 1:15–17, CEB)

“He came down from Heaven” can almost be transposed into “Heaven drew earth up into it,” and locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death, are, from before all worlds, known by God from within.

—C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

It’s easy to imagine Jesus as the plastic baby in the nativity scene on our mantel. He “sleeps in heavenly peace” while “no crying he makes,” after all.

Yet as I cuddle my wiggling daughter, as she babbles or tries to lick the cookie crumbs off my fingers, as I look into her eyes and stroke back hair from a face that I would whisk away to Egypt in a heartbeat, I see the living, breathing Jesus; the Jesus who learned to walk and delighted his mom and dad with each new word; the Jesus who enjoyed good food and worked with his hands; the Jesus who stood up to bullies and cried with his friends.

In coming down from heaven, Jesus was God’s “yes” to both the joy and pain of human existence. He allowed himself to be human through and through: hunger, fatigue, blisters, and all. He felt deeply—frustration, anger, betrayal, and grief, but also affection, humor, amazement, and love.

The same Word of God that made humans in God’s own image and then declared, “This is very good!” became flesh and blood and lived among us. In becoming human God proclaimed a blessing on the complicated realities of life. There is no joy without struggle, no love without loss, no connection without the possibility of brokenness. And God himself, the Word who created our world for the messiness of relationship, by stepping into this uncertainty and possibility, declared, “This is very good!”

I imagine that the Jesus in the nativity set on my mantel cries when he’s hungry. That’s what my babies do; honestly, sometimes I do too. He also smiles and coos when his tummy is full and finds comfort in the arms of his mama. This is the complicated reality of being human; we need each other. It’s a reflection of who God made us to be because it’s a reflection of who God is: community.

In Jesus God entered the community of creation so that creation could enter the community of God.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, as I experience the joy and pain of being human today, remind me that you’ve been there and can help me hold it all together. Amen.

By Emily Ralph Servant

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #133+ in 2019]

Emily Ralph Servant is a leadership minister for Franconia Mennonite Conference and an adjunct professor of mission and theology at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
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