One of my favorite moments in one of my favorite Christmas movies is when the “Old Man” in A Christmas Story receives his “major award.” In his excitement, he doesn’t recognize the word fragile on the crate.
“Fra-gee-lay,” he reads. “It must be Italian.”
“I think that says, ‘fragile,’ honey,’ Mom quietly corrects.
A fragile Christmas
When I read the stories of the birth of Jesus, I’m beginning to recognize how easy it can be to overlook the gentleness with which Luke tells the story. I know the rest of what will happen in Jesus’s life — the miracles, the teachings, his death and resurrection. It all seems inevitable, 2,000 years later.
But there’s a baby, lying in a feeding trough, born to poor parents who are struggling to make ends meet in an occupied nation. Doctrine tells us this child is God in the flesh, yet fully dependent upon his parents for his basic needs. The all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth, in this moment, does not have his neck muscles developed enough to hold up his own head.
Maybe it’s 2020, the reality of the randomness of disease, and the renewed recognition of our lives being at the will of politicians and leaders, but that message is resonating anew with me this year. Life is fragile. Faith is fragile. Christmas is fragile.
Maybe like me, you’re feeling a bit fragile this Christmas. In your excitement to celebrate, to open the presents, to find the “major award,” don’t misread the gospel.
Christmas is fragile. God choose to become fragile for you and me. It’s right there in the story.
This devotion is inspired by verse 4 of a relatively unknown hymn of Charles Wesley that captures the idea of the fragility of Christmas, and provides the most concise explanation of the incarnation I know:
See the stupendous blessingWesley, Charles. “Hymn VI.” Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord. London: [Strahan,] 1745.
Which God to us hath given!
A child of man,
In length a span,
Who fills both earth and heaven.
I’ve written about this elsewhere.