A Vulnerable God
What does the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth mean to you? For me, it’s the story of a God who chooses vulnerability over power. The Jewish people had been waiting for a saviour for generations, but when Jesus appeared, it wasn’t in the form they expected. They were hoping for a ruler, someone powerful who would overthrow the oppressive government and bring justice to society. As a result, many didn’t recognize him when he arrived as a newborn baby born in a dirty barn. Just like the people back then, we still don’t know what to do with a vulnerable God.
Connection over Control
How can a vulnerable God be powerful enough to be called ‘saviour’? Humanity’s version of power often involves control and domination. Control always comes from fear. But looking at the birth and life of Jesus, we see a different kind of power: one that comes from love instead of fear. Throughout the Gospels we find Jesus hanging out with the down-and-out, washing feet, and touching lepers. Jesus redefines power as connection rather than control. He prioritizes relationship over status and reputation.
The Portal to Power
As people, we admire and celebrate our intelligence, strength and talent, and we do our best to minimize and cover up our weaknesses. We defend and protect our ego. But the portal to God’s power is through our vulnerability or weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). For the record, I don’t like feeling weak and vulnerable. But imagine if we were perfect beings. We wouldn’t have needs or pain. But I don’t think we’d have any intimacy with God or each other either. To love requires vulnerability. In this way, our weaknesses can be a gift, becoming a place of connection with God and each other.
A Vulnerable God
This quote says it better than I ever could: “When I am vulnerable, I want to behold a delivering, transforming, world-altering, situation-changing, putting-me-back-in-control God. I ask God to meet me at the intersection of Fixed and Finished. But God has chosen to meet us in the vulnerable Christ, revealing himself at the point of our vulnerability.” – Dan Boone. Wow! How many of my prayers are about connection with God vs requests that put me back in control? Do I want to connect with God for the sake of relationship, or is it really just about getting what I need from God so I can go on with my own life?
Emmanuel: God with Us
In the story of Jesus’ birth, he is called “Emmanuel”: God with us (Matthew 1:23). In Jesus, we receive the gift of a God who has experienced a human life, who can empathize with our weakness. A God who doesn’t engage in power struggles, but instead turns power on its head through serving and loving and dying for us. Vulnerable, but not a victim. God demonstrates his love for us in a willingness to be vulnerable, to meet us heart to heart. He invites us to respond in kind, to come to know him and each other through our vulnerability.