It is a small entrance into the world for God – the Creator and Ruler of all – yet that is how God chose to come to us. Luke highlights this small entry of God in his gospel by placing it in the context and movement of the time. The emperor Augustus had commanded a census of the whole world – nations and peoples were on the move – and in the midst of all of that movement of humanity was one couple (the young wife expecting her child) on the edge of the large empire who had to leave the space of home, family and friends and enter the much smaller space of being strangers in an unknown place. All that they could find for shelter was a manger – not even a room in the Inn. It was within this smallest of spaces that God chose to enter into the world and creation.
“Is God so mighty that he can make himself small? Is God so mighty the he can love us and really enter into our lives?” Pope Benedict XVI asked these questions in a reflection on St. Nicholas found in the small book, “Seek That Which is Above”. Can God enter into our smallness? The answer is “yes”. The answer was given by the birth of Christ – a helpless infant born in a small stable, unnoticed by the powers of the world and first witnessed by a few shepherds. Love that is true cannot remain distant. Love has to draw near and for God to draw near to us then God has to become small and vulnerable. The smallness of the manger reveals God’s power.
But the manger does not just reflect on God – the manger, the incarnation, also reflects on us. The Church, from our earliest days, has understood this. “For if God is too far away from us to love us effectively, then human love in only an empty promise. If God cannot love, then how can man be expected to do so?” (Pope Benedict XVI, “Seek That Which is Above”). The manger teaches us that God can and does love, where love is to be found, how we can love in turn and, by so doing, how we can be truly human ourselves.
Love – most authentically, most purely – if found and given in the small, isn’t it?
The warmth of a smile, the laughter of friends, the comfort of a hug, the help of a stranger, the kiss of a beloved, the tiny grasp of a newborn’s hand…
Love is found, love is given in the small. And it is in the small – where love is given – that time and eternity touch. Is God so mighty that he can make himself small? Is God so mighty that he can love us, even in our smallness? The smallness of the manger says “yes” and the answer given reflects both on us and on God.
During these days of Christmas, the infant Christ looks on us with a singular question in his eyes, “Can you come to the manger? Are you strong enough to set aside the ego, the pride, the resentments, any sense of superiority, the hurt and the fear often carried in life that hinders and weighs down in order to enter the small and to love, just simply love and be loved? If you can you will find life and healing, because there in the small,” says the infant Christ, “you will find me.”
It is in the smallness of the manger that God’s power is revealed and that we learn to live full and true human lives. You could say that we also are born in the smallness of the manger … if we are willing to go there.
It is a small entrance into the world for God – born a helpless infant and laid in a manger. God dwells in the small where love is found.