Recently I was travelling by train from Yokohama to Odawara. In the carriage sitting opposite me I watched a young mother cuddling her baby. The baby was so tiny, so vulnerable, so dependent on its mother.
I wonder if any of us, given the choice, would come into this world in such a fragile condition. I doubt it.
But that is exactly what Jesus was willing to do for us. The Son, the second Person of the Trinity, chose to put aside the power and glory of God and become a weak, fragile human just like us. Jesus was a baby and like the baby in the train was completely dependent on his mother, Mary.
Let us look at the Christmas Crib and ponder this: our God deliberately took on our human weakness and consequent reliance on another. Jesus did this because he loves each one of us in our human frailty. That frailty which Jesus willingly accepted made him one of us and also made him our human representative before God.
This is what led him to offer his life for us, his brothers and sisters, on the Cross. The Crib and the Cross are intimately connected.
Jesus says to each of us: "Unless you become as a little child you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matt: 18:3). Jesus does not mean that we become childish. He means that as adults we acknowledge our human weakness and become completely dependent on God. He calls on us in our powerlessness to rely on God's strength.
But we humans like to be in control. Christmas is a time when we look at the human infant Jesus in the crib. He is asking us to give up control and put ourselves into the hands of God. "Into your hands, Abba, Father-God, I give my life" (Lk 23:46).
Our Abba-God is gentle and understanding towards us his children. He wants our happiness. We can trust him when we put our lives in his hands. Let us look at the infant Jesus in the crib and realise how utterly dependent and weak he was.
If we ourselves acknowledge our human powerlessness and hand ourselves over to God we will become free, and more truly human. When God chose to become a weak human like us, he chose to be very close to us.
Our God has experienced the human condition. He accepts as we are in our human frailty.
That is love. That is the meaning of Christmas.
Columban Fr Barry Cairns first went to Japan in 1956.
Read more from The Far East, November/December 2013