The Big Is In The Small

December 10, 2014

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There’s this little five-year-old boy named Blake who made me cry last night. So did his seven-year-old brother, Brent, and his eight-year-old sister, Mariana. Something about those little ones at their school’s beloved Christmas chapel gets me every. single. time.

It was Blake’s first year to be part of the service because it’s his first year at the school. The kindergarteners did “The Friendly Beasts,” a somewhat obscure Christmas carol that has been forever tarnished in my mind because of the time my brothers, father, uncles, and male cousins turned it into the worst-ever white-boy rap one Christmas Eve. Imagine the line, “Jesus, our brother, kind and good, was humbly born in a stable rude” coming up against the likes of LL Cool J or MC Hammer, but without the finesse or talent, and there you have my memories that will be eternally connected to that song.

But the kindergarteners sang it the way it was supposed to be sung, and it’s really basically a “Little Drummer Boy” idea but from the perspective of the animals who would have been there in the manger that first Christmas. Truly beautifully done, and as I watched Blake partake in that in front of a packed auditorium, and then Mariana with the third-graders and then Brent with the second-graders, I remembered the truth that when you have children, you spend the rest of your life with your heart walking around outside your body.

Something about Blake’s dimples that I couldn’t see from that far away, but I knew were there; something about the way Brent never took his eyes off the teacher during his performance; something about the way Mariana managed to sing and smile at the same time, proud that she had remembered all the words to a somewhat complicated new song that she had practiced constantly – it came to me that so much of what was getting to all the sentimental deepest parts of me was so small … and yet it was so big in my mind and heart.

I thought of the manger and how every figure in the nativity is focused on the smallest figure there, and then my mind just took off realizing that God has a way of couching the big in the small.  The ocean is hidden inside  raindrops and snowflakes, not because of some complex chemistry but because of the simple truth that without raindrops and snowflakes there would be no oceans.  The sandy beaches of daydreams and Instagram photos wouldn’t exist without billions upon billions of grains of sand, all of them smaller than the tip of a pen, each one of them adding to a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.  The roots and veins and horticultural DNA of the mighty oak is contained in a capsule that starts around one centimeter long.

Yes, it seems that God has a way of wrapping the biggest of big in the smallest of small.

And then there’s this Babe lying in a manger.  At birth, His fingers would have been small enough that they couldn’t wrap all the way around one single finger of His earthly daddy, His head so small that it would rest in the palm of His mama’s hand, His eyelashes and eyebrows so delicate that they would have been virtually imperceptible at birth.

And yet, as the writer of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” phrased it about the night of Jesus’s birth, ‘the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.’

Yes, Jesus, Babe in a manger who was and is and ever will be the Savior of the world, given to us by His loving Father who so wanted us to be in keeping with Him … yes, He is the big that came in the form of the small:  being a baby, He was small in stature; being born in a stable to unwed parents, He was small in status; being born into a Jewish family during the Roman occupation, He was of seemingly small importance to the broader region.

But being God incarnate, He was larger than life itself.  Turns out He still is.

My hope and prayer for you today is that you find the bigness of God in the smallness He puts in your path …

… a child’s dimples when he smiles …
… the melody of a belly laugh …
… vivid colors of leaves as they change before they drop, making room for the spectacle of growth and color that will come in the spring …
… the gleam in a child’s eye …
… the warmth of a child’s hug …
… a phone call from a forgotten friend …
… a phrase in something you read that seems to make everything else make sense …
… the smile of someone happy to see you …
… the smile you feel creep on your face when you think of someone you are excited to see …
… singing along to a familiar song that takes you back to great places in your mind …
… the sound of a crackling fire in an old fireplace …
… the life sustained in and by a single breath, a single heartbeat.

Why?  Because when we meet God in those small places, it’s so much easier to understand how to meet Him, how to find Him, how to love Him – the smallness and bigness of Him – in the manger.

Merry Christmas, and Godspeed.

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