Flawed as we are by selfish instincts, how can we possibly be what the Creator intends us to be? The very largeness and greatness of God can weigh us down with seemingly impossible expectations. Which leads me to “O Holy Night.” The words to this Christmas song were written in 1847 by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure, a French poet and wine seller.
It has always been one of my favorite carols, but since my saving moment, I can’t get through it without tears. This stanza describes why that happens: “The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger, Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!”
Christ “knows our need” and “our weakness.” Born of a human mother, raised in human society and family structure, Jesus has empathy for our situation. He was “born to be our friend,” just as the carol says. When I was alone with failing faith and no friends or family near, the Lord came to me. He sustained me in my weakness. And I, the one whose faith had rested in God’s impersonal, all-powerful presence, crumbled at Christ’s feet when I felt his comfort.
And what I’ve found in the years since that moment is that Christ changes who we are. He moves us to care deeply and live vibrantly in this world, to know and feel the needs of those around us. George MacDonald once wrote, “Christ is God’s forgiveness” (Unspoken Sermons). And so I add, Christ is God’s kindness. His presence, at our side and in our hearts, permanently changes the trajectory of our lives. (Living Large, chapter 21)