“Jerry, did you see the baby?” That popular line from an old Seinfeld episode rings through my head whenever there is a new parent around. Happy, proud parents and grandparents cannot help but gush around family and friends when there’s a new family addition. They show adorable photos and giggle at silly baby antics. The atmosphere, charged with excitement and enthusiasm for the future, is joyous and hopeful for families.
In the Seinfeld episode that made this line famous, viewers learn that the baby was not quite as beautiful to outsiders as he was to his parents. The startled expressions on the faces of onlookers compared to the parent’s adoration made the episode memorable and quite funny. Even though the episode is very amusing, I can’t relate to Jerry and his friends’ cynicism over the newborn but I can totally understand the joy of the newborn parents—for all babies are beautiful and true miracles!
“John, did you see the baby Jesus?” How I wish I could have gotten a look at that baby miracle! I’ve certainly heard glowing reports about the infant—I know you have too. Paintings of him—by artists who never saw him—often depict a glowing circle of light around his head, known as a nimbus or a halo. But he came as one of us, as an infant, the Word made flesh.
I believe that glow only became visible to people, other than his adoring parents, much after the fact. As he left that manger and grew into adulthood, I’m sure the neighbors noticed that Mary and Joseph’s child was different. At a young age, he taught lessons at the Synagogue and confounded scholars. Later, he drew large crowds of followers and skeptics, and performed numerous miracles. When, I wonder, did the neighbors realize they were looking at God incarnate?
The mystery of the Incarnation is unfathomable. The Creed of St. Athanasius states it clearly:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man…perfect God, and perfect man…although he be God and man: yet he is not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the manhood into God.” (BCP 864) Our minds cannot fathom God’s nature embodied in human life. Incomprehensible, yes, but we are wise to shun speculation and contentedly adore.
Only after his death, and resurrection, did people fully begin to understand “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. They began to connect the dots and understand Jesus’ life and death fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. They, and now we, need the Holy Spirit to help bring about that realization too. Scripture and the Holy Spirit enlightened them, as it can us. Only then, can we proclaim, “we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.
This Christmas, I pray you can answer the question, “Did you see the baby?” with the joyous realization that God dwelt among us and is with us now.
Fr. John Schaeffer