One of the most cringe-worthy prayers ever prayed on the big screen is prayed by Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) in Talladega Nights. In his prayer, the immature Ricky Bobby keeps referring to Jesus as “baby Jesus.” At one point his wife interrupts him, “You know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him baby. It’s a bit odd and off-puttin’ to pray to a baby.” Ricky Bobby responds, “Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best.”
The final villain this Christmas, baby Jesus, might be as alarming to you as Ricky Bobby’s prayer. Before the mob forms, allow me to explain what I mean by saying that the baby Jesus can be a villain of Christmas.
How many of us also “like the Christmas Jesus best”? We might not say it out loud, we might not pray to “baby Jesus,” but in reality, we keep the Jesus of our faith small and contained. How many of us happily maintain a childish, trivial faith? How many of us effectively keep Jesus in the manger?
In the book of Hebrews, the author, frustrated with his congregation, critiques their childish faith: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.”[i]
Christ commends to us a child-like faith—a trust that is wholly vested in Christ, like the trust a child has for his or her mom and dad. Many of us, instead, have a childish faith, a faith that is happy to worship Jesus, as long as that worship gives us warm feelings. The Jesus we worship is fine and well as long as he is that child who speaks to us from the manger and tells us that he loves us and came for us. We grow uncomfortable when that Jesus grows up and speaks to us from the cross: “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”[ii]
The wonder of the baby Jesus—God-made-flesh—is beyond comprehension. We need the baby Jesus. We need to be reminded of God’s love for us, that God became low for us. But this Christmas, let’s make sure that we also remember why the Son of God came for us—because of our sin; and let’s make sure we remember that even from the manger, Jesus bids us to be made low as he has been made low.
The baby Jesus bids us to come and die!
And as he calls us to follow him, our eyes are opened again to the transformative power and beauty of Christmas: the Son of God has become the Son of Man that we might be called children of the Most High. The curse has been lifted because he bore our curse, but we only experience the power of Immanuel when we worship him as the King, born to save us through his death that he then calls us into.
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice,
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Jesus Christ was born to save
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain his everlasting hall
Christ was born to save
Christ was born to save.