“Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”

In the popular comedy “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” the titular character prays to an “8-pound 6-ounce newborn infant Jesus,” wearing “golden fleece diapers.”

When challenged on this by his wife, Ricky Bobby snaps back that he prefers to think of Jesus as a baby and so will continue to pray to Him as such.

Although the scene is blasphemous in many ways, it places a finger on how many people like to picture Jesus during the Christmas Season and why He is so popular this time of the year.

Baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, is cute and cuddly. He’s not the Prince of Heaven, the Savior of the World, the King of Kings, and the Lion of Judah.

More than anything else: He’s safe, because He’s just a sweet little baby.

Of course, I think this is more an over-the-top plot device to show how backward and provincial the character is more than it is any slight toward the lordship of Jesus Christ. But I cannot help but think, especially during this time of year, if we are not ourselves guilty of the same absurd thing.

I don’t mean to say that any of us are gathered around our dinner tables making an absurd paean to a cherubic, ruddy-cheeked, bowdlerized version of the “holy infant” whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day. But in reducing Him to anything less than Lord of our lives, we are doing so. If I do not live in such a way that testifies before others that He is my king and master, then am I doing any better than Ricky Bobby? If my thoughts and actions are contrary to His commandment, am I not simply relegating Him to the “kid’s table” in my conscience?

Jesus Christ was divine, God incarnate, who condescended to take on the mantle of a man that He would teach us how to live and in His death purchase our Salvation. Though the life He lived started in the humble means of a manger, Jesus Christ grew to manhood as the sacrificial Lamb and prepares to return as the Lion.

Thus, He is no one to be trifled with or trivialized.

My own children are charmed by the Nativity narrative, of humble shepherds straining for a glimpse of the newborn king, of the tranquil Mary bearing her child with quiet grace, and of baby Jesus so tender and mild…  but I’m not content for them to remain there, to remain as children or for their understanding of their Lord to remain a juvenile one.

As we celebrate this season with stories of the birth of Jesus, let us remember that birth is not the end point of our spiritual lives, any more than childbirth is the essence of parenting. These are only starting points.

The goal of parenting is to raise healthy, intelligent adults who are loving and caring, with the strength and skills to face the challenges of their lives. So too it goes with our spiritual lives. The object of our religion is not only a spiritual rebirth, but to have

Christ grows within us to be an everyday guide, comfort and support. We are to have the presence of God be a part of everything we do and to share the fruits of that growth with the people around us and in the wider world.

What child is this? This is Christ the Lord. O, come let us adore Him.

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