A Startling New Understanding of Christmas This Year

Something unexpected continues to give me pause as we care for our foster son. It's his vulnerable dependency. Like any newborn, he's dependent on us to sustain his very life. This responsibility on our part  has felt weighty and joyous and full of privilege.

Even when I think back to the first time our stories intersected, his has been marked by helplessness and dependency.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

I saw our foster agency's name on my phone and I immediately felt a surge of nerves.

"There's a newborn at the hospital. He's been in the NICU for three months. They are ready to discharge him and they're looking for a family. That's all I really know right now."

She mentioned a few more details about his situation and condition.

"Ok, yes. That sounds good. We'd love to."

Heart racing.

"Alright, I will let CPS know you're interested and I'll call you back if it's approved."

I called Kristian immediately to let him know. So many emotions accompany this journey.

We started listing all the things we needed to do to prepare.

I called a handful of friends nearby who had offered various baby items should we receive a call about a baby. My sister in another city posted a request for items on a Facebook group and within hours had tons of generous responses, people offering everything from bottles to mattresses to new carseats.

The next 24 hours were a bit of a blur as we had case workers through our home and friends providing all kinds of help. We ran to grab diapers and groceries.

When you receive a referral call for a foster child, you likely only get about 5% of the information that will later come to light about their situation. It's not that information is hidden, just unknown. Nothing is simple. There are lots of questions and few answers.

30 hours later I found myself walking alone into a hospital, empty carseat in hand. I made my way to the NICU and was directed over to a back corner. 

And there he was. A real human life, living and breathing. He had overcome so much already and he didn't even have a clue about all that was ahead. 

He just lay there, completely dependent on other's for his care and well-being, for his very life.

The next several hours were filled with a frenzy of information. I fought really hard to hold back tears several times at the overwhelming nature of it all. Stress tears, not joy tears.

Some strange things happened that night and Kristian and I had to come back the next day to get him instead. 

We carried him out into the light of day for the first time. We fastened him into the car and drove him home. 

I sat in the backseat staring into his little face. My heart ached for him. I was so grateful he was in our care. He was depending on us now for everything. Everything.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

It's been a fun and festive Christmas season though almost nothing has gone according to plan. We had all our Advent activities set out on the table but actually read it about four times. I didn't get around to Christmas cards, and I wish I spent more time on gift purchasing.

But somehow my mind has still settled in on this: baby Jesus -- a baby whose dependency was a chosen path of humility in order that we might understand the Kingdom of God.

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As I've reflected on our foster son's dependency, it has really hit me. Jesus' decent to earth as a baby? It's radical. It's counter-intuitive. 

It's a startlingly humbling move.

It's startling because this King, this Ruler chose a very humble and dependent form.

And it's startling because we can take on this same posture -- humble and dependent, completely at rest in the arms of the One who loves us.

This year, no matter if we've been the Martha Stewart or Ann Voskamp of Christmas, or whether we've failed at everything we had hoped to accomplish, there is such reassurance, rest, and peace in this baby's staggering dependency. 

A humble decent is what Jesus chose, and humble dependency is where we can lay it all down this Christmas.

Take a few minutes to read this in full, really taking in the picture of humility:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:3-11 ESV

Merry Christmas, friends.

May humility be our prayer, our act of worship, and our gift to others this beautiful day.