“O come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,” we sing. We too “mourn in lowly exile here” until the Son of God appears. We long for God to come in power and right our injustice, heal our ills, dispel our confusion, and fill our loss. Yet, the nativity story tells us that God came in weakness.
This tiny God could do nothing for himself, let alone anyone else. God With Us needed to be fed, carried and clothed. God needed to be changed, held, rocked and soothed. God was needy.
God needy?! My Christian education never put those two words together. Neediness repels me. I want to fix needy people or avoid them. I don’t want to be needy myself. And yet, I was. If I’m honest, I still am.
I don’t like to remember it, but there was a period of my life–eight long years–full of injustice, fear and loss. The pain was so unbearable that it spilled into most conversations, causing people to judge me and distance themselves. Thankfully, enough people stayed close and gave me the support I needed to survive. But when life became bearable again, I knew I never want to be that emotionally needy again.
To know that God chose to be needy brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. I struggle to put words to what is going on in me. I feel . . . accepted.
Jesus was needy and divine. The Son of God needed to be held and comforted, just like I did in those eight long years. God is not repelled by my neediness, but endeared to it, in the same way a parent is enraptured by the neediness of their newborn child.
When God looks back on those awful years, I don’t hear God calling them awful or identifying me as a problem. I sense God saw God’s self in me and was filled with compassion and love. And God still is.
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
–“What Child Is This?” by William Chatterton Dix, 1865
Some Advent Love Mischief:
- Remember a time when you were needy. What feelings emerge now as you remember it?
- Imagine God looking back at that difficult time. How did God feel about you then? How does God feel about you now?