Almost nothing in this world is more precious to me than newborn children. Four times now our home has been blessed by the arrival of a tender, innocent newborn; our halls hallowed by their sweet, helpless cries. Having a new baby in our home is like having a fresh piece of heaven to savor and hold close, a glimpse into the eternal world from whence we came and where we are destined to return. When I hold a dear infant in my arms close to my chest, the soft, new hair brushing my cheeks as rhythmic breaths gently caress my neck, I feel God’s love in a larger measure than usual, encircling me with its cozy warmth and penetrating every nook and cranny of our home with its light. Such is the power of one of the humblest, most helpless creatures on Earth: the newborn babe.
This power is readily apparent to me at Christmastime as I consider the humble birth over two thousand years ago of the Son of God. I am filled with piercing emotions as I contemplate the sweet, newborn baby Jesus. Lying there prostrate and helpless before Mary and Joseph, visiting farm laborers, kings, and angels alike, the infant King of Heaven and Earth rested in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. One of the most powerful Beings created, even God’s own son- laying there completely helpless, periodically sleeping in the manger! Knowing what you and I know about the innocence, joy, and sweetness of newborns, imagine for a moment the feelings that must have coursed through the fortunate spectators of such a foundational scene in our Earth’s history!
Here in front of them, with uncontrolled, unfocused eyes and sporadic movements of little arms and little legs, in a newly acquired “tabernacle of clay”, lay Jehovah, the creator of heaven and Earth, the Alpha and Omega, the Savior of the world! Imagine their awe and wonder as they heard the tender newborn cries warming for the first time the vocal chords that would one day say things like “Come, follow me” and “Peace, be still!” and “Nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done.” Imagine the sight of those supple little newborn hands and feet: tender hands and feet that after thirty-three years of growth, service, tear-wiping, healing, blessing, and prayer would be pierced and broken by the calloused, rough hands of Roman soldiers driving spikes through them into a cross. Think of Mary embracing her newborn son, the soft, fragrant flesh of his head gently caressing her cheeks; flesh not yet broken and bleeding by a cruel crown of thorns reserved for him by mocking men of little understanding. Think of Joseph gently rubbing the weak, tiny back, probably smaller than his hand, that would one day grow strong enough bear the crushing burden of all the sins, maladies, cruelties, and infirmities of humanity from the beginning of the world to the end thereof- a burden so great that the strain of it would cause him, “even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit.” But for now, there he lay, the Word made into the most innocent flesh that ever existed even among newborns.
As I consider this scene of God’s condescension, to be completed by his later suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and his eventual death on the ignominious cross, my heart is filled with God’s love for me and the entire world. This contemplation makes the Savior’s later words become real which say: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Consider these thoughtful words from Gerald N. Lund to remember once again just who this helpless baby was:
When we consider the incredible vastness of the numbers of creations, all of which were completed under the direction of the Father by the Only Begotten, we begin to sense the position, the majesty, and the power that were his before his coming to earth. The Doctrine and Covenants gives us even more insight as to his position not only as the Creator but as the sustainer of creation. Speaking of Christ, we read, “He is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. . . . Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:7-13; emphasis added). If this light that emanates from Christ is indeed the law by which all things are governed, the implication is that if somehow that light were extinguished, the entire universe would collapse back into chaos. That is the being of whom we speak. That is who Jehovah was before he came to mortality.
Now we begin to sense the incredible scope of the condescension of Christ in leaving that position, that majesty, that power, and taking upon himself mortality—becoming an infant totally dependent on others, requiring daily nourishment, being subject to the weaknesses of the flesh, feeling pain when he slipped in the carpenter’s shop and hit his finger, being vulnerable to suffering and sickness. Imagine the God of the universe being subject to the common cold! But, as Paul said, Christ thought it not robbery that he should leave that position, but rather, he emptied himself of that glorious power and took upon himself all that mortality implies. That is one sense of the condescension of God.
The Savior’s choice to enter this world in the most unassuming, humble, helpless way possible, thus to experience all the joys and pains of growing up and living on Earth somehow makes His life, ministry, and sacrifice more tangible and meaningful to me. It makes me feel more connected this Mighty God who is the Prince of Peace. For me, baby Jesus is a tangible expression of God’s ineffable love.
No wonder, then, that the ancient Book of Mormon prophet Nephi immediately understood the meaning of the brilliantly white fruit, “desirable above all other fruit,” that his father had seen in a vision. Upon being shown the infant, newborn Son of God, borne gently in the loving arms of a “virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins” he immediately knew in his mind and heart that the fruit represents the “love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men.” No wonder that this vision of the helpless babe of Bethlehem helped him begin to understand for the first time the “condescension of God,” which is certainly manifest in Christ’s first physical appearance on Earth as a tender, defenseless babe laying in a manger.
Of course there are many other ways in which Christ completed his condescension, but this one time of year we get to focus on one of the most tender of those ways- Christ’s condescension from the lofty thrones in heaven above to the sweet, tender body a newborn infant: one of the most tangible manifestations of true and pure love any parent (or anyone else who has held a newborn babe) knows.
Behold, indeed, the condescension of God!