Embrace the Smallness

The coming of the Messiah seems to be so small, so little, that it is breathtaking when you recognize the truth of the incarnation as God’s majesty coming to live among lost humanity. God chose to be born as an infant among us, one like any other, the Messiah Jesus coming as a baby boy to a world so rough and cruel. He was a child utterly dependent upon his parents for his care and sustenance. He was so small, so little.

Bethlehem, far from a city, was itself a small, insignificant town. The prophet Micah tells us that the Messiah would be born in “Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah.” Ephrathah is here associated with a region or clan of Judah, which is itself designated as “little.” Micah, however, promises that from this town “shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days,” a messianic prediction from the little town that also gave to us Jesse and his son King David.

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The smallness of it all extends to the mother of Jesus, Mary, a young woman or girl. In antiquity girls and women were accounted as small in many ways, but she is called to be the mother of the Lord. We also encounter here the vulnerability of women in antiquity, for there is another mother associated with Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who faced the reality of ancient childbirth. In Genesis 35, Rachel, a wife of Jacob, went into “hard labor” after they had left Bethel, and while her son Benjamin survived childbirth, Rachel did not: “So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day” (Gn 35:19–20).

Women knew the reality of childbirth and the vulnerability of womanhood, so Mary does not run to priests, scribes or scholars, to tell of her encounter with God but to her relative Elizabeth. Elizabeth was open to God and “filled with the Holy Spirit” said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary and Elizabeth, shocked and startled as they might have been that God was working through them, were nonetheless open to God in them and among them.

God came into the world as an infant; and the Incarnation was entrusted to women, who would not only bring the child to us but care for him among us. They were willing to see and embrace the smallness of us all in light of God’s mighty work. They were open to the love necessary and due to any child and open to God’s saving power in their midst. The Messiah was entrusted to the natural processes of human life, in the most vulnerable of hands, in the most vulnerable of ways, so that God’s glory and salvation would not overwhelm us, but accompany us in solidarity with the suffering of all of us small and little people, in order to teach us the value of human life and the greatness of each of life. By each of her actions, Mary is telling us: Prepare to adore him.

For this is how God chose to come, not had to come, to humanity. From a human point of view, the Incarnation is a crazy plan, choosing people too little and too vulnerable. But as a result, it is the best for us: being born among us, being raised among us, he came as one of us, but as God among us, he shone a light on our true dignity and God’s might in humility.

In this way, says the prophet Micah, the Messiah would “stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.” By allowing us to embrace our littleness, our smallness and vulnerability, God also allows us to grasp our eternal value. For the Messiah, Jesus Christ, born as a little one to protect and save us, is here to manifest God’s greatness and majesty for all people. No one is too little, too small, too insignificant to share in God’s plan. He comes to share God’s love for us. Oh come, let us adore him.

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Bruce Snowden
2 years 10 months ago
Embrace the Smallness.” As a human person, I am more attracted to bigness rather than smallness – the highest mark is admired, being first, (the biggest and the best) in everything, is the accepted goal, the need to IMPRESS people with my “greatness” spurs me on and on, where least and little, are not things meriting congratulatory high fives . I tend to go after anything but smallness craving the big because in and of myself I am quite insignificant and that’s precisely how and why our paradoxical God can do the really great with me! “God resists the proud but gives His Grace to the humble.” Yes, God is Great, not in need to IMPRESS anyone and that’s why He preferentially loves littleness. After all, He did “slim down” so to speak, “emptied himself” as St Paul says. Material creation is loaded with emptiness, reflecting the “nothingness” from which it was drawn. Take the Sequoia, a gargantuan species, a tree that can live for a thousand plus years. It starts as a little seed weighing less than1/5000th of an ounce! Consider also that God didn’t choose a great, magnificent orb from where to launch Redemption. Instead He chose an insignificant speck of cosmic dust called “Earth” filling it with grandeur and magnificence, making littleness profound, His most prominent creative work. See what God can do with littleness! And there are incalculable other examples that focus in on the fact that God the humble, God the little, promises inheritance of the Earth and the Kingdom of Heaven, if we but follow the wink of His eye. Amazing, isn’t it? I believe when we embrace smallness we embrace God, who in turn embraces us. Heaven is where smallness achieves its greatest glory, the place where we’ll discover in truth Blessed Mother Mary’s “Magnificat” that, “He has regard for our lowliness.” Concluding, what about the Incarnation? The Incarnation it seems to me made God like the new kid on the block, saying to all, “My name is Jesus. Let’s be friends!” To the original Twelve He put it another way, saying, “Let’s go fishing!” In a nutshell as Professor Martens said, the Incarnation et al, looks real “crazy" But when one remembers that “the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men,” light seeping paradoxically through the cracks in the impenetrable wall of Faith elicits the whisper of a little child looking at the starry sky, saying, “Wow! My Daddy did this!”
Richard Booth
2 years 10 months ago
I am reminded of the book entitled "Small is beautiful," written some years past. It is a socioeconomic, as well as a psychological study of the love of bloated extravagances in our culture and in those who comprise our culture, namely, us. To bring that author's ideas to fruition would require turning the culture upside down and starting all over again.
William Rydberg
2 years 10 months ago
No comment regarding the Second coming, a powerful theme of the Liturgy during this season.

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