Admiring the Baby at Christmas

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My column published recently in The Catholic Weekly.

After Mass last Sunday, which was Gaudete Sunday, we met a woman carrying her newborn baby boy. Our eldest was delighted, and instantly wanted to touch him. Then, back home, she sighed, “I wish we had another baby”.

It is interesting how people are naturally drawn to admire very young babies. The awe and wonder, and the protective instinct that a tiny person elicits from us is so powerful.

A few weeks ago, when in the news we saw a tiny baby being rescued from a drain in Sydney, we witnessed a surge of this protective instinct. It seemed that the whole city and people all over the world were disturbed that someone could leave him there, and gratified that he was now safe. 

There are people who would say this is an instinct which ensures our species’ survival, and I think that’s true, but it’s also something placed in us by God to draw love out of us, love for the baby He was at one time, and for every baby born.

It’s astounding that God, creator of the universe and all things visible and invisible, would choose to come to us a defenceless little baby. That God would invite us to stoop down to admire Him, lying in a manger made for animals, or resting in His mother’s arms.

This Advent I attended a day retreat held for women that was hosted by the Vocations Office and given by popular Catholic author and retreat director, Fr Jacques Philippe. It was on St Therese of Lisieux’s little way of trust and love.

It’s natural at this time of year to start thinking of bigger and better goals for next year, for ways we might improve ourselves. Sales of books, DVDs, magazines, and gym memberships tend to do better shortly after Christmas in the annual rush for self-improvement.

I wrote up my own list of things to do, partly to try to make myself better over the next year, even though I know I will probably end up frustrated. Fr Philippe said that whenever we try to do something, even something very good for God, we can sure that every single time we will be blocked or thwarted by our limitations.

He added that this is in fact a great grace, for when we come up against what we can’t do, that leaves room for God to do something. And what God will do is far greater than what we could have done anyway.

Isn’t it liberating to think that humanity, hopelessly corrupted, gets its great remedy with the arrival of a baby to contemplate? You can’t get bigger and better at admiring a baby. You just get to enjoy it!

So I think when it comes to spending time with the baby Jesus this Christmas, I’m enjoying the thought that he wants and needs nothing from me except for my visits in prayer.

Not just because he is a baby and babies are sweet, but because he is God and has spared nothing to come to us in a way that enables us to be attracted to him.

Nativity scenes are everywhere now. And little babies will continue to be born. To teach my children the meaning of Christmas I don’t have to do much more than come with them to admire Jesus there.

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