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“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Christmas is in danger of being turned into a perpetual “ground hog day” for baby-jesusness (as Ricky-Bobby would say), devoid of the redemptive qualities of rebirth and renewal. Some people don’t quiet grasp that baby-jesus grew up “in wisdom and stature,” that He died and rose again, and that He is Lord of all. That we are able to avoid, mistake, or intentionally ignore Jesus says something of His patient attraction. He can handle it; there is no need to forcibly convert those whom He woos, nor talk God into something not already on His heart.

Douglas Steere – a Quaker from the early 20th Century – put it beautifully in Prayer and Worship:

[Prayer] is not a question of changing God’s mind or of exercising some magical influence or spell over the life of another. Before we begin to pray, we may know that the love of the One who is actively concerned in awakening each life to its true center is already lapping at the shores of that life.

Lapping at the shores He does, over and over again – all to awaken us to our true centre: Himself. There is something about Christ that is persistent – unyieldingly committed to us despite our indifference. Nowadays we may act more like tourists to a quaint nativity play, and wonder what that was all about. Some are quite happy to remain at the stable doors in that flaccid admiration for “the gifts we are about to receive.” (Can you hear my groan over the blogosphere?). Others will not let baby-jesus grow up, since they will not let Jesus on to shore. It is not as if He waits in the waters as a boat to dock; He is the waters continually lapping.

The Great Paradox

There is a paradox between growing-up and remaining child-like, and few are better than G.K. Chesterton in capturing that dynamic:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

Do it Again! Merry Christmas!

This “Do-it-again” moment is my way of wishing you all a merry Christmasto nudge you into the waters of the One who laps your shores; to grow-up into the One who remains child-like – with the eternal appetite of infancy.

And, this is my small word-gift for my youngest son Joel who has had the merry (or unfortunate) coincidence of being born on Christmas Eve many years ago. I would not say he has had to live in the shadow of Christmas – rather, he has had to live in the brighter light of the birth of Jesus (and he may have even sometimes resented it).

Shortly after his second birthday, I was inspired with this poem for him; already seeing signs that he would happily walk the tightrope between child-like and, er, child-ish!

Young all your Life!

You have been young all your life
Yet you have grown-up so fast.

From your fist night home to your first night away; I have carried a thousand cares for you.

I thought you’d be a baby all your life
But it turns out you’ll always be my boy.

May you grow-up, young
And mature into child-likeness;

May you present yourself
To the gift-giver of the giving-gift;

And may you find that true joy
In the One who is laughing all the way.

Joyous Noel and Happy Birthday Joel!