We celebrate the birth of a child. This birth shifted the trajectory of everything known by humanity. As it is for any child, conception led to gestation, and gestation led to birth. But birth is not the end but the outward beginning of a noticeable movement. For birth was not enough.
If the “Divine Christ Child” had remained a child his whole life, we would not be where we are today. Birth is a necessary part of life. A child is born in our day and doctors immediately check the thriving of that child. The seeds of the future lay still in the dirty diapers and burping cloths. For most parents, the birth of that child bears all the hallmarks of promise.
The Child must move out of the manger, leave the city of Bethlehem and head out into the surrounding world he inhabited. The Child could not remain. Perhaps the clearest example of this was when, a little over a decade later, the Child left the side of the parents and remained at the Temple, beginning the requisite launch. It confounded them.
And thus, one meaning derived from this birth remains the “truth” that birth is not enough. Buried deep in the seed of all that is organic remains the promise of growth, the promise of nurture, the promise of hope and a difference.
Precisely because the Child became a Man and the Man lived for a while among us, that we beheld his glory, the glory of the One and only “full of grace and truth” (to paraphrase John 1). In other words, it was the movement of this Man from cradle to grave and beyond that injected into a depleted and deplorable world the seeds of hope, courage, and renewal. Birth was not enough.
And for we who claim Christian leadership as a mantle we wear, whether we be an elder in a congregation, a pastor of a multi-church district or a multi-staff church, or a president in a conference or union office, to claim supreme allegiance to this Jesus is to go rogue against the dark powers of this age. And a way we can go rogue remains by our commitment to never settle, to never claim birth as enough, to resist the sedentary spiritual journey, and to press on with the hero’s journey.
Paul caught all this when he wrote to the highly dysfunctional community in Corinth during the heat of its conflict: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13.11)
And may the words written concerning that child be words inscribed in our souls and stockings hanging over the fireplace during this season, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2.52)