While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. - Luke 2:6-7 (NRSV)
Let’s be honest. Newborns are not beautiful. Except, perhaps, to their parents—a familial imperative.
Newborns are wrinkly. They are blotchy. They have acne. We might overlook all of this if they would only behave—sleep sweetly on cue, keep their poop cloistered in snug diapers, ask for what they need calmly, with a please and thank you and a real social smile. But they just won't cooperate.
Given the bad behavior, and general fugliness, of newborns, it’s amazing our species has survived.
But behold Jesus, tiny little baby and the Savior of the Cosmos. God seems to be saying something here. He’s a baby like any other—cradle cap, mewling squall—and he’s God own ugly baby.
“God’s ugly baby is named Vulnerability,” says the prophet-preacher Rev. Lynice Pinkard.
Do you dare to hold this baby, love this baby, welcome this baby into your heart? Even if he’s not pretty yet, needs a little Photoshopping before your critical mother-in-law sees him, won’t garner many <3’s on Facebook?
Do you dare to let yourself be broken open by this ugly baby, Vulnerability? Which means, today of all days, do you dare to let go of your expectations of having an ideal Christmas? Let yourself be imperfect and vulnerable, wrinkly from hard use, blotchy after a good cry, acned with personal blemishes, not always smelling of roses--and just as God made you?
And then, loving this baby gift of vulnerability in yourself, are you willing to let everybody else be imperfect and vulnerable too? Just for today? Then you will know Christmas.
Fourth-Trimester Newborn Baby Jesus, it’s cold and uncomfortable and too rough for your thin skin here on Earth. Thank you for showing up like that—it makes the rest of us who feel a little thin-skinned ourselves know we are on the right track. Amen.
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church UCC in Berkeley, California, and the author of the best-selling Real Good Church, Standing Naked Before God, and her newest baby, Bless This Mess: A Modern Guide to Faith and Parenting in a Chaotic World.