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He Came So We Could Be Like Him

December 22nd, 2023 | 4 min read

By Rachel Roth Aldhizer

There was a Christmas pageant in our community some years back put on by a school for children with disabilities. A friend of mine saw it, and said she wept through it, unprepared for the images of the Holy Family played by children in wheelchairs, or with cerebral palsy. Perhaps there was a deaf-blind shepherd, or a non-verbal child as the angel announcing the good news of God to all men. Was Mary a girl with autism, unable to meet the audience’s eyes? Did baby Jesus have a cleft lip, or a feeding tube? As he laid in the manger, did he struggle to get a good breath? Perhaps he needed oxygen support, and a nasal cannula.

Intensely provocative, these images have walked with me through Advent. These are images of my son, born profoundly disabled, and his friends. What is there to be learned about the kingdom of God from a group of children who have no typical capabilities, acting out a very ancient story? Perhaps, the answer is everything.

It is tempting to read political narratives onto Christ, whether it be the He Gets Us commercial campaign, stating “four ways Jesus supported women’s equality” reminding us glibly that “Jesus was fed up with politics, too”, or be it Albrect Durer painting himself as Christ. Wanting Christ to mirror our own reality is only natural. However, Jesus was not a woman, or a Black incarcerated refugee. Nor was he a lily-white northern Italian with red hair, as depicted by Botticelli in Man of Sorrows. Jesus is not malleable to whoever interprets him. Instead, Christ has his own reality–he was born to a young Jewish woman two thousand years ago. By embracing this limited reality, Christ resets time and history. Christ rescues us from our ability to only see our own culture and moment, and pulls us into a new metaphysical reality–not by virtue of his socio-political identity set in ancient Israel, but because he is the Son of God.

Instead of crafting a Christ exactly like me, the Incarnation makes a way for us to become like Him. Jesus, when Mary laid him freshly in the manger, was not blind. He was not crippled, and he was not lame. However, by virtue of “coming in” through the incarnation, Christ became profoundly limited. In this way, my son David, born profoundly disabled, is like Christ. Christ, in his limited human flesh, is like me. Christ’s human walk was a journey of deepening limits and pushing boundaries. The Son of God had no place to lay His head. Jesus firstly oriented himself to a broken humanity by taking on our flesh, and secondly turned himself to align with second-class citizens. Christ loved those with limits. Christ became like those with limits.

Jesus’s relational orientation was not to the powerful, strong, or popular. Christ sought out the poor, the lame, and the outcast. He became like “one from whom men hide their faces.” Christ humbled himself by putting on human flesh, like the oldest, worn-out set of clothes from the donation bin. Then he went further, by giving that coat to the beggar, and that shirt to the lame. He turned his cheek when struck, and was beaten for my sake.

Christ’s preoccupation with nearness to poor, lame, and sick people pushes me to go deeper and further. Have extra? Give to the poor. Have power? Lift up the weak. Have strength? Carry your brother. Christ’s earthly walk, begun with the Incarnation, leads straight to the Cross. David, by virtue of his limits, is much closer to the Cross than I. A poor brother, or a sister in prison, is closer to the feet of Christ than I. It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.

The lesson of the Incarnation, the lesson of Christmas, is that the Gift came to give. Christ came to give even unto his death. To be like him, I must give until I can give no more–give until the end, give until I have only myself and my life, and then give even that before the Cross.

The kingdom of God is like a widow who gave two copper pennies as her offering–all she had to live on. In this, said Christ, she has put more into the treasury than all the others.

David was born giving. The paradox is that he has nothing to give away–no talents, no riches, no power. He has only himself, given freely–and in this, he is closer to the Cross than I. Perhaps he is there now, at the foot of it. I do not know what David sees or hears when he communes with God–but I know what God sees when He communes with David. A beloved son, in whom he delights, with nothing to give, except his small life, and small heart. And the Giver is pleased, very pleased, with the gift. In this, he has put more into the treasury than all the others.

Rachel Roth Aldhizer

Rachel Roth Aldhizer lives and writes in North Carolina.

Topics:

Theology