The icon of the Metaphysical God can be quite comforting. It is a little remote, and while it captivates the imagination, it does not seem to threaten the comforts of our egocentricity. At least on the surface.
However, the idea of God being a helpless baby can be both baffling and challenging. It is easy to understand why we need an all-powerful God who will punish evil and reward good. This idea speaks to inner drives within us that suggest that in the end good will win. It is precisely such comfortable notions of God that the Incarnation shatters. In becoming a child, Jesus did not simply lower his majesty for a moment as if he was adding something new to what it means to be God. Rather, in the Incarnation, Jesus revealed something about his eternal relationship with the Father.
The most difficult lesson we all must learn is to be both vulnerable and weak before our Lord and with our neighbor. Perhaps we recognize how important such a relationship is based on our concept of God. If God is all-powerful, then it makes sense that I am weak by comparison. This is not, however, the lesson of the Incarnation. I am called to be vulnerable and weak before God because by doing so I am imitating the relationship of Jesus Christ to the Father. I am participating in the eternal relations of the Trinity. In other words, I am becoming like God.
This reality must transform and redefine how we look at power and hierarchy. Instead of power relationships being characterized by egocentricity and blind obedience, they find their fulfillment in service and communion. Our weakness and vulnerability teaches us that we not only must tolerate and cooperate with other people to achieve our goals, but that we need other people in a drama of interconnectedness. Jesus needed Mary and Joseph, and we cannot allow this Divine helplessness to be reduced to pleasant sentiment. It must startle us and awaken in us the reality of our limitations and inabilities before the ravages of sin and death in the world.
Such awareness liberates us from the shackles of compulsion and fear. Instead of our actions being characterized by a frantic quest to promote the illusion that we are powerful and in control, we learn to live in our weakness and to accept it. This does not make us soft or unable to cope with the challenges of the “real world,” but rather gives us the inner peace to enter into the world with faith, hope, and love. These theological virtues, in turn, allow our works to participate in the salvific action of the Cross.
Today, let us learn to meditate, experience, and accept our weakness and vulnerability. Let us dare to be like the Baby Jesus, helpless before the many enemies that threaten goodness, beauty, and truth.