Spend time with an infant, and you cannot help but wonder, “why did God become a baby?”
I enjoyed spending Thanksgiving week with my 11-month-old granddaughter. She is such a delightful baby!
Caring for her on my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding anniversary, I was overwhelmed by how vulnerable a baby is. Babies cannot protect themselves. They cannot obtain their own food. They cannot change their own diapers. They cannot bathe themselves.
How babies are treated significantly impacts who they become, how they understand their world, and how they fear or embrace it. Babies must be loved, and the love they receive must be emotional and practical. Babies die without proper care.
Preachers often say, “God became a man.” Sure, but first God became a baby!
Why? I think to earn empathy.
The experience of life is only available through living. To feel empathy with babies, God was born. To feel empathy with Children, God grew through childhood. To feel empathy with teens, God felt the angst of hormones and a brain full of idealism.
“Wait,” you say. “Jesus was God!” There’s theology for you. So, yes, Jesus was God, but the only way God became man was to pass through infancy, childhood, and adolescence – just like every one of us.
All of us began life as babies. Is there a better way to understand what being human means than to begin as a baby?
If you want to love someone you must understand them. For that you must have empathy, the capacity to put yourself in their place. Empathy is the ability to understand or feel what another person feels.
Empathy is the root from which kindness grows. When we have empathy and can truly understand another person, we know what they need, what they long for, and what we can do in our relationship that will be good for them. The kindnesses we do because of our understanding are acts of love.
From empathy grows kindness and from kindness grows love.
Who would give their life for a coffee cup? No one. But most would give their life for a Child. One gave His life for all and greater love has no man than to lay down his life for another.
So, there you go. I could tie a nice bow right here. The whole Christmas story: God became a baby, gained empathy for all of us, and died because He loves us.
Now, I want to use the Christmas story to suggest one last thing: God’s empathy for infants and Children is worthy of deeper consideration. We cannot overlook this if we wish to participate in the great love of God.
Having created the wonders of the universe with words, God could have saved 33 years by saying, “Let Me be empathic.” He did not.
God knows what it is to be a baby, defenseless against the world and absolutely dependent upon the care of others. God knows what it is to be a Child, subject to the pains of life …
I believe God has remarkable empathy for infants and Children and I believe the love of God compels us to care for Children. Jesus certainly did.
Matthew explained it beautifully when he wrote about the time the disciples went to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’
He called a little Child to him, and placed the Child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little Children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this Child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such Child in my name welcomes me.”
Care for a Child and you care for Jesus.