God With Us: Fragile Children in an Uncertain World

Advent and Octave of Christmas Reflections 2021

Introduction to Advent: 

Emmanuel. God with us, the Messiah, the Savior come to earth, born as an infant into a fragile world. Human infants are among the most vulnerable newborns in the creature world. Within an hour a newborn giraffe can stand; baby elephants, even at a birth weight of 200 pounds, can stand within 20 minutes of birth and walk within an hour. Human infants will not be able to move toward food or other needs for months. Their present and their future is entirely up to the adults around them, entirely up to us. Their cries, their laughter, their development of language, their sense of stability and security create a relationship that appears to be dependent, appearing as if they need us more than we need them, as if mutuality is not possible. And yet, the breakthrough event that we anticipate in this Advent season, the birth of Jesus as an infant, points to the interdependence we are called to, points to right relationships with and for children. Sacraments point us in the direction of God; children point us in the direction of God. We need children in our lives for the true sacramental presence that they are, pointing us to a God vulnerable with us. Such a relationship comes with responsibility. We are all responsible for all children, and for the uncertainty of the world into which they are born. 

The sustainability and stability of the world into which a child is born is the responsibility of all of us. The ritual of Baptism asks the parents and godparents to accept the responsibility of raising their child. “It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” We know that no parents or godparents bear this responsibility alone because children are born into a world, into a place, into a story. Just as the particularity of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth matters, so too does the particularity of every child born, including where they were born, to whom they were born, and the created world into which they were born. Advent invites us to reflect on such communal particularity and to renew our wonder and awe of every child and their story. Their future is entirely up to us, up to me, and the choices we make. What is my responsibility for the world into which every child is born?

The vulnerability and particularity of the Christ Child reminds us that he was hardly the Messiah anticipated. And perhaps, even today, hardly the Messiah easily embraced. This Christ Child invites us into a fuller realization of what some theologians call the “deep incarnation” – fragile, beautiful, whole, interdependent, relational breakthrough into the human story as part of the wider story of God’s work in the created world. A birth that forever points us in the direction of the Great Love. A birth that confirms that God created the world and saw that it was good. A birth that reminds us of the wonder and awe of Love in its purest forms. The same God who created the brilliant colors of the Painted Bunting, the extravagant scent of night blooming Jasmine, the sweet taste of a ripe mango, set forth in human flesh that same brilliant, extravagant, sweet intention in the Christ Child. 

An integral vision asks us to take this wide lens on the Incarnation. We reflect on this season of Advent and the Incarnation, reflecting on the wider story of justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. Each week of Advent and the Octave of Christmas will offer a reflection on one of the JPIC Commitments of the AMSSND through the lens of the particularity of children and through the lens of Laudato Si. How might we welcome the Christ Child this year with new sight and deeper commitment to all God’s children and the world into which they are born? All conversion begins with awareness. May God bless this Advent season with an ever deepening awareness of Emmanuel, God with us.


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