Friday, January 03, 2020 - Updated: 5:02 pm
A Muslim man with the handle “ibn Al Aljuraan” tweeted, “Imagine believing that a woman gave birth to God, the Most High, and that he needed to be breast-fed and taken care of by his own creation. Imagine believing God used to defecate and urinate upon himself and had to be cleaned by his mother. Exalted is Allah! Above their lies!” He sent the tweet with a picture of the Madonna and Child with their eyes marked out.
Several Facebook friends came unglued. They heaped abuse on the poor man. But here’s the thing. He only said what a Muslim should say. In fact, he only said what anyone who doesn’t know Jesus should say.
If God is God, he’s infinitely far from us. He’s mysterious, perfect, deeper than we can possibly know, far beyond our ability to think about or talk about. He’s pure spirit, completely outside time and space. How could God become man? How could God poop his diaper? That’s about the stupidest thing you can imagine.
We should feel that as deeply as this Muslim man does. If we really think about who God is, we should feel the contradiction between the bottomless mystery of God and the reality of human infancy. But that makes the Christian story all the more amazing. God became man. He bridged the infinite gap between him and us.
Why don’t we write tweets like ibn Al Aljuraan’s? Because God became man and pooped his diaper.
That completely changed the world. You may remember the chilling scene in the great movie “Casablanca.” The German Major Strasser threatens the heroine Ilsa Lund, telling her, “in Casablanca, human life is cheap.” That evil little Nazi saw others as things, not people with value of their own. Things he could use, hurt and kill as he wanted. He thought he owned them the way he owned his socks.
In the ancient world, human life was cheap in the same way. (With the exception of the Jews, of course. They were the small light shining in the darkness.) Every ruler was a Major Strasser. Every ruler thought he owned the people and could do with them what he wanted. They were nothing.
We think the massacre of the innocents pure evil. Herod killed every little boy in the village just to make sure he got the one he wanted to kill. All his peers would have approved. You have to kill little boys to protect yourself. No big deal. You break mothers’ hearts with no more thought than you’d throw away old socks.
Until Mary had that little boy in Bethlehem. Eventually much of the world saw that when God became man, he made every single person hugely important. (How this happened is complicated. For a short explanation, search “Hart human dignity rarity before Christianity.”)
How did it change things? Here’s an example. The old Soviet Union treated its people as badly as the Romans did. The world’s first communist state created a vast prison system called “the Gulag” to keep the people in line. The Soviet secret police, the KGB, tortured and killed people without a second thought.
The Soviet Union claimed to do this to build the new perfect communist world. They explained their hurting some people by claiming they were making a better world for future people. The Romans wouldn’t have bothered saying that. Even the modern communists cared more for human dignity than the ancient Romans. Because Mary bore Jesus in Bethlehem.
That birth changed the world. It can change each one of us, for pretty much the same reason. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, “Christmas is the most profoundly human feast of faith, because it allows us to feel most deeply the humanity of God. The crib has a unique power to show us what it means to say that God wished to be ‘Immanuel’ — a ‘God with us,’ a God whom we may address in intimate language, because he encounters us as a child.”
American Catholic Dorothy Day made it personal: “I’m so glad that Jesus was born in a stable. Because my soul is so much like a stable. It is poor and in unsatisfactory condition because of guilt, falsehoods, inadequacies and sin. Yet I believe that if Jesus can be born in a stable, maybe he can also be born in me.”
Mills edits Hour of Our Death (www.hourofourdeath.org).