The Christmas story has been told so often: Mary giving birth in the dark of night and cold of winter; the newborn baby, vulnerable, fragile; the birth in the stable, because no one would give the mother any better room.
It is a study in contrasts, isn’t it? There is darkness in the night, and yet the radiance of God’s love is in the child. The winter is cold, but the baby brings the fire of God’s love to earth. The baby is so small and helpless; and yet he is the Word, who in the beginning was God and was with God. The humble animals surround the child, but the angels of God sing his birth. The child is poor and lowly in origin, and yet all the power of God is his. The stable is lowly, but it is the king of kings who is born into it.
Why is the story like this? Why did the Messiah come as a baby? Why didn’t he come as an adult? Why did the Word of God become incarnate as so poor and humble a person? Why wasn’t he incarnate as the Emperor of Rome? For that matter, why was he born in winter? And at night? Why wasn’t the Messiah born on a mild May morning?
The answer lies in us, I think. We ourselves are a study in contrasts. We are dark and cold. The darkness in our lives, the coldness in our hearts, makes us a winter to ourselves. And yet there is a longing in each one of us that will not be still. We hunger for light and warmth, in others, in ourselves, in God. We yearn for love, but we also resist it. We yearn, and we wrap ourselves in coldness again, so that we will not be seduced by the lure of love. We fear that for us the reality is only winter and night.
But who could feel threatened by a newborn in a stable? Whose cold heart is proof against a helpless child? And so, in the dark of the night that we are and in the winter of our hearts, the baby is born. The light shines in our darkness. We can let it in.