The National Catholic Review
There was nothing so vulnerable in the ancient world as the life of a child. The same is true in many ways even today: a child’s life is dependent upon those who will care for that child; before the child can even know faith or trust, her life is in the hands of others. Yet, other vulnerabilities, for most children born today, have been conquered. In the ancient world, it was even more of the case that childbirth itself brought to bear the vulnerability of life itself. Many children died in childbirth, or in the days following; many women died as they gave birth to a child, and no medicine or medical technique could save them. When a child was born, therefore, and both the child and the mother survived, what a great rejoicing, not only for the immediate family, the father and the other children, if any, but the extended family. Life would continue in this family! There is a reason why the "barrenness" of women, and thus of families, weaves its way throughout the Old Testament and New Testament narratives. Children are life. Children are hope. A childbirth survived by child and mother is hope realized, it is love incarnate. That God came to us as a child is a sign both of our vulnerability - all of us who are here, alive today, shared in this infancy, over which we generally have no memory and certainly had no control - and God’s willingness to share that vulnerability, to become one of us. God coming to us as the Christ child is a sign of God’s love for us and solidarity with the human condition. The infant Jesus, born on Christmas day is a sign of hope that life is redeemed by the great gift of God, who cares for us in our vulnerability, just as Mary and Joseph cared for their infant child in his vulnerability. Love is the heart of the incarnation. Merry Christmas everyone. John W. Martens