If you think a New Year holds the promise of change, imagine what big-time change a new baby promises any time of the year!
A newborn child signals wholesale, radical changes in anyone’s household. If you don’t remember, just visit some new parents in an obstetrics ward.
The upside-down world of parenting becomes stark reality in the delivery room.
That must have been especially true when the delivery room was a stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Talk about a baby turning the world upside down!
Let’s think and talk about this baby for a while.
Jesus was no ordinary baby whose birth signaled the usual radical changes for his parents. That’s thinking too small.
This baby embodied incredible changes for the whole world. In fact, I’m convinced it is totally appropriate to call Jesus, even baby Jesus, the Radical Host of God!
Jesus was a textbook radical, for sure. He was radical because his actions and attitude were extreme in relation to the politically correct and religiously correct people of his day.
But that’s only because he was radical in the sense of coming from the root, the source, of life.
Jesus didn’t wait until his public ministry to become radical. His birth was a radical departure from the typical kingly birth.
The delivery room was a stable. Birth attendants were cows and sheep and who knows what other animals.
His parents were peasant stock, not royalty. His first guests were lowly shepherds, by some accounts the lowest class of people in Israel at the time.
Did they really believe they were in the presence of the Messiah in that stable-cave? Perhaps. But it must have been difficult to believe as they looked at this beautiful baby in such humble surroundings.
As a newborn, of course, Jesus wasn’t up on the correct Jewish ways to welcome his guests. But he was the host that night. No doubt about it!
There were no words spoken by Jesus, only hushed words uttered by visitors. It’s likely he slept through some of the visits. But my guess is they felt the power of God’s mysterious presence even though bewilderment or doubt or awe or whatever stirred their hearts.
Are your imaginations in gear? If so, step with me inside the stable-cave to eavesdrop on what might be happening.
Are there other curious guests? Is it silent, or do you hear the bleating of sheep, the mooing of cattle, the whimpering of dogs? As you draw close to where Joseph protectively stands by his young wife and their newborn son, you strain your neck for a glimpse of the baby in the dim candlelight.
Do you hear any sounds from the baby? In my heart’s imagination, I do.
Since we all have the advantage of 2,000 years of faith history, I can hear the baby speaking for God and himself. He speaks of the radical mystery of life and what his role in that mystery will be.
What God is gently inviting me to hear is even more basic, far more radical than I normally see in a brand new baby. Listen carefully and perhaps you can hear something of what I hear:
“What you celebrate as Christmas is far, far more than what can be contained in a single celebration, no matter how meaningful it might be for you. Our heavenly father knows it is time to remind you and all humanity that he is profoundly serious that LIFE be lived as it has always been meant to live.
“That’s why I am here. Your ancestors didn’t take seriously any of the other life-signs God offered them. They needed something touchable, familiar. That is why I was here for them. That is why I am here for you!
“Please don’t be deceived by your ways of celebrating Christmas. Christmas is much more than being with loved ones or giving consumable or breakable gifts to people who have less than you have.
“The joy and hope you speak of during the Advent and Christmas seasons are a very good start. But as God’s Radical Host, I welcome you to a new, deeper level of living in God’s world.
“The experience of life I welcome you to is sketched out in my mother Mary’s words in Luke 1:46-55. You know them as the Magnificat.
“Read them again, carefully, confessionally. You may understand anew that God is very serious about leveling the playing field, closing the gaps between the haves and have nots, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak. God did not create this world for there to be any gaps between people, or between people and Earth. Those gaps are your ideas, not God’s!
“My role as your host is to love you and challenge you and love you again, over and over and over. Your role as guest is to decide how you will choose to respond to my love and my challenge.
“As God’s Radical Host, I want you to become as whole, as complete a person as God initially created you to be. Come to me and I can show you, teach you about being whole, also about being a radical host to those whom you meet. Then it is up to you!”
Well, that’s the voice from the manger for me. I will share more with you in the coming weeks about Jesus as the Radical Host of God through his amazing ministry. Please join me.
In fact, I invite you to share with me ways in which Jesus is God’s Radical Host for you.