I left off my last column in an asylum, and it is there that we have to start this time so that we can eventually make our way out this Christmas.
As a brief recap I pointed out that humanity by and large is totally insane. And, I pointed out that to insane people, sanity always seems deeply suspicious, perhaps even dangerous. That is why the Christmas story, with virgins getting pregnant and celebrities joining manual workers in a cow shed to worship a baby called God, is the most likely thing on earth to be sane.
In fact, it is not just sane, it is the antidote to our insanity. It’s the only thing that can pull us out of our delirium and place us on an even footing again.
We start with a virgin getting pregnant. In other words, we start with God planting himself in a womb. And thank goodness he does, because it shows he is something different to us. After all, we needed fathers. But if he didn’t, this must be a different sort of life, and so presumably it shows us a different way of living.
But the divine life entered mortality because it took on the form and flesh of a human. And thank goodness it did, because it can relate to us, with all our pains and sufferings, with our terrible habit of ending in death.
Next, we get to the celebrities and the manual workers in the cow shed. We are, truth be told, very prideful little creatures and we love to compare ourselves to others whether in dollars, in travels, in intellect or in physical achievement. But this little detail of the story, which defies the usual laws of human society, offers us another way.
It tells us that all men come before the baby called God as equals. Wealth, status and even scent make no difference to him. Whether you have travelled long or just popped in from around the corner makes no difference. If you want to come and see him, you’ll simply have to stand shoulder to shoulder with all sorts of people that – in the other bits of life- you would have avoided. After all, crowding around a baby is the only way to see it, since it is small.
And now we reach the baby called God. Oh, what a beautiful contradiction! Here, in response to our own love of wealth, we find God arriving with nothing. Here in response to our own love for power, we find God carefully selecting the most vulnerable of human forms. Here, in response to our own love for status, we find God dressed in the ordinary weakness of a child. Here, in response to our pride, we find that God is humble.
That’s his trick, you see. Instead of donning a lab coat and issuing orders as to what sanity was, he slipped on our flesh, snuck into the asylum, and began showing us what it looked like in real life. And we don’t like it, because it makes us look all the more ill.
And so as we unwrap the layers of the Christmas story, we find that it in fact is peeling back the very worst bits of our own hearts, the mostly deeply embedded bits of our own insanity. And by the time we finally get to the baby, lying helplessly in his mother’s arms, we realise that we, in fact, are the helpless ones.
But here is the best news of all. He never wanted strength, or glory, or intelligence. Like any baby, he just wanted us.
So why don’t you join the crowd around the baby this Christmas? If you do I can promise you won’t just find sanity, you will find in that little child an entire world free of asylum walls.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz