Leave it to G. K. Chesterton to write an essay called “In Defence of Baby Worship.”
In it, Chesterton said this, as only he could:
As we walk the streets and see below us those delightful bulbous heads, three times too big for the body, which mark these human mushrooms, we ought always primarily to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea.
The point he was making is that there is an entire brand new world being constructed inside babies’ minds. They are seeing everything for the first time, and using all of it to assemble an individual universe inside of themselves that we call an inner life.
This is no less true of adults. You and I are in possession of a singular world that is swirling in our heads, constructed from the space dust of everything around us: experiences, sights, memories, circumstances, thoughts, dreams, failures, joys, life.
That is amazing. And it is sad.
It is amazing because it is then true that everyone—everyone!—we meet is a cosmos unto themselves, waiting to be explored, mapped, marveled at.
It is sad because 99.9 percent of who we are will stay unknown to everyone around us.
This is a both an experienced reality and a biblical one. Practically, we understand that the majority of what goes on in our heads will never be known by others. It’s simple math. Inside of you, in every moment, you are taking in data around you, thinking thoughts, making judgments, analyzing experiences, feeling emotions, at an infinitely greater rate than what you can verbally express to others. Measured in activity, your inner life vastly outweighs your outer one.
Biblically, we read this in Proverbs 14:10: “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.”
There is a fundamental alone-ness that’s part of what it feels like to be a person who is alive. We may or may not often think about it, but it remains nonetheless—this dilemma that we are locked inside our head, and no one can ever truly know what it’s like in there.
Yet, at Christmas we celebrate God coming into our world, being born as a baby in a stable. That is what the Incarnation is: God “becoming flesh.”
Jesus, by his birth, fulfills a messianic prophecy in Isaiah 7: “the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel, which means, “God is with us.”
At Christmas, by celebrating the Incarnation, we celebrate a God who has come to be with us. Whether or not this is a true fact of history has profound implications for this dilemma of alone-ness.
If the Incarnation is not true, then all of your worst fears are. Your life is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Love is a chemical reaction, not a transcendent virtue. That distance you feel between one human being and another is exactly that—an uncrossable gap between one mind and another. There is no one who hears your thoughts, knows your depths, sees your struggles, understands your life. You are fundamentally alone, and nothing you can do can truly change that.
If the Incarnation is true, however, then none of those things are. Your life pulses with meaning and purpose, no matter your circumstances. Love is a transcendent virtue that is rooted in the reality of the living God. That distance that you feel between one person and another is indwelled by a Creator who hears your thoughts, knows your depths, sees your struggles, understands your life. You are not alone, fundamentally, and nothing you can do can change that.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Incarnation, the value of it. The trauma of the Fall is so raw, the rupture of it going far deeper than we even realize in our day-to-day lives. Genesis 3 is the record of a perfect unity between God and man being torn apart. This infinite separation so permeates our lives that, whether we know it or not, almost everything we do is in some way asking one question of God: Are you there?
For you and me, for each heart that knows its own bitterness and cannot fully share its joy, the Incarnation is, among the many things that it is, God’s answer to that question.
It is a thunderous response, a resounding “Yes!” that comes in the form of a baby, one whose name is above all names.
He is with you. With me. With us. He is present in the vast expanses of our inner universes. We know this because once he was present in a manger in Bethlehem.
And so it follows that our life, as an obedient response to this reality, is to take that “God with us” to other people. To proclaim the good news that we are not alone by being present with each other—and not simply present in body but also in action. To demonstrate the reality of God’s presence in the seemingly empty spaces of our world, where injustice and weeping and hurt and depression and loneliness prevail.