Can anyone ever be afraid of a baby? Perhaps this is the special enchanting nature of our Christmas celebration. At the center of it all is the birth of a child in very humble circumstances. It is a story that is without any parallel. The incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ as a human infant sparks our human curiosity and challenges our faith to believe that God could become man in such circumstances.
A child is totally helpless and defenseless. A child is totally dependent on those who will take care of it. Scripture tells us that Christ “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8) This is the mystery that we celebrate at Christmas.
There is an interesting comparison of two different views of the nativity event made on the famous painting by Raffaello called La Madonna Sistina. Each year, millions of people view this painting. There is a very popular scene taken from this painting which is used on Christmas cards. Perhaps you have seen it? It is a round painting of the Madonna holding a child. We have printed La Madonna Sistina here for you to see.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who was a philosopher of pessimism, once viewed this painting and wrote these words, “She brought him into the world as he looks at the world somewhat frightened by the chaos and the horror of the world. It gives savage agitation in its endless needs.”
Certainly, his is a very pessimistic view of the world in which the Christ Child was born. Another German philosopher, Karl Schlegel, viewed this very same painting. In fact, he wrote a hymn to Christmas using these words, “The Virgin holds on her breast a totally new infant who however shines like the sun. In his eyes is reflected the splendor of the world around him, becoming a source of light.”
Certainly, many things are in the eye of the beholder. As we behold the Christmas story and try to understand the deeper mystery behind it, much of our understanding will reflect our understanding of the world in which we live. Yes, there is horror and suffering in the world, but there also is grace and light. It is for us to choose our world view. I suggest that as we look upon the nativity scene that we contemplate the face of the infant depicted, while recognizing that the innocence of a child is exactly the view we should have of the world. The entrance of God into humanity changes our view of the world for the better.
The first coming of Christ into the world was truly a cosmic event of putting out into the deep. Divinity touched humanity in Jesus Christ, the infant born to save the world from all of the evil that we experience and to bring the light, which is grace to us here on earth. This scene also reminds us that we must look upon our infants and our children to see the innate joy and the reflection of the newborn Christ in them at Christmas.
Yes, Christmas belongs to children because they remind us of the vulnerable Lord of the Universe born in Jesus Christ.