Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's Not About You (Luke 3:1-6)

Sorry about the extra delay -- fine case of the sniffling crud this week.

OK, so why a baby?

We know that the main point of Jesus’ life and work was his message of God’s love for people, as well as his sacrifice and resurrection. So why did he show up as a baby?

After all, there’s a lot of risks in being a baby. You break easy. Your cheeks are always red from getting pinched. Grandparents fight over you. That’s a whole lot of risk for the one person alone who could bring about the salvation of humanity.

So why do it? Of course, there’s the obvious reason – so far, nobody’s been able to come up with a way to make human beings that doesn’t start with babies. They’re the essential first step.

But we know Jesus did a lot of things differently than they were ordinarily done. He healed people in unusual ways – if you don’t think so, go wipe some mud on the eyes of a blind person and see what happens to you. He taught an unusual message, and he won our salvation by the unusual method of getting himself killed.

So he could have just showed up, preaching and teaching. After all, that’s the way Mark tells the story. No manger, no wise men, no shepherds; just a baptism and bang! we’re on our way. But Matthew and Luke tell us about that birth, and Luke even throws in a story about an adolescent Jesus.

That makes me think the baby-hood of the Messiah is important. There’s some reason Jesus was a baby, and something I think I’m supposed to learn from it.
Wonder what it is.

I’m kind of at a disadvantage. I don’t remember being a baby, and I deal with them with the slightly mystified reaction all child-challenged people have. But I think I’ve observed a few things that might give me a clue about a possible lesson Jesus’ infancy can teach us.

In listening to my friends talk, I think I know one thing a baby teaches almost right away. Maybe the most important lesson, at least in terms of figuring out the rest of them. Here it is: It’s not about you.

Think on it with me. The arrival of a baby says to those who already live in that space, “It’s not about you.” Because if it was about you, then you would just tell Junior to roll over and wait for the alarm to go off and he could get breakfast then. If it was about you, then someone could clean up her own darn digestive processes. But obviously, it’s not about you.

In fact, pretty much nothing is about you when you have a baby around. And our culture has a very, very hard time with the idea that it’s not about us. So, I think, does our human nature.

Yet the very method God chose to bring about our salvation is mediated in this package that blows up our self-centeredness. When I think about it, I kind of have to admit that the message of salvation itself has that same idea as well.

On the one hand, this idea reins us in. We want to do this, or we want to do that. We want these things, but we learn that getting our way may harm someone else. We may not care and go ahead with what we want, unless we have something that tells us, “It’s not about you.”

On the other, it’s freedom. We approach our creator full of awareness of how badly we’ve failed him, of how badly we’ve overstepped what he designed for us and how much damage we’ve done to the rest of his creation. How can you forgive us, we ask? We did some awful things and a lot of the damage we brought can’t be fixed.

And the message from the Lord is the same message new parents hear from their baby: It’s not about you. It’s about me.

And in the Lord's case, that’s some good news indeed.

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