BIBLE READING: Hebrews 1: 1-12
Martin Luther – the man who began the Reformation - said this... “When God speaks to humanity, God always speaks in baby talk.” God does this, says Luther, because God is love. Therefore, God never forgets that no matter how old or how big we become, we are still helpless, dependent, unknowing babes so far as our faith is concerned.
When God speaks, he tells us only as much as we need to know, only what we can take. God knows we cannot stand the whole weight of the full truth. The Creator knows limits of us creatures. So God talks baby talk to us.
God does not bother Adam and Eve with lessons in animal husbandry or botany. God simply says, “You’re in charge. But stay away from that tree over there.” Like any busy parent, God never gets around to telling them why; God simply tells them the way it is. But you know Adam and Eve. From the beginning, we want to know too much for our own good.
God speaks to Moses out of a burning bush, knowing that children are fascinated by fire and things like that. But when God speaks, it is with profound simplicity: “Go tell people that I AM sent you.”
And the law: basic kindergarten morality (as literally translated): You no kill. You no lie. You no steal.
And the prophets: Broken jars and eaten scrolls and other object lessons for children, talk of lions and lambs and little stories which only little ones understand. Baby talk.
Have you ever watched people talk to babies? Goo goo. Gaga. Perfectly intelligent, sensible adults will stop before a stroller and, one after another, be reduced to nonsensical babblers. Goo goo. Gaga.
A Speech Therapist I know tells me that such baby talk is essential for language development, coordination, and perception. There is research indicating that infants who are not talked to frequently during the first months of life suffer stunted development.
All subsequent chatter of learned theologians, says Luther, is but a series of footnotes on God's baby talk. These theological, abstracted, reflections must not deafen us to the first, simple childlike ways in which God speaks to us. When it does, we begin complicating the faith, talking big, claiming to know more than we have experienced, forgetting our essential condition, smothering the elemental power of it all. Babies do not have to be told what Mommy means by “Cootchie, cootchie, coo.” Love needs no explanation.
And so, stooping once more to our level, bending over into this violent playpen we call home, God again speaks — this time not simply speaking to babies but coming as a baby, as one of us.
To the outside observer, just passing through, all this excited talk over the bassinet — the toothless shepherds grinning and peering over the edge of the crib, the wise old men from the East reduced to babbling fools — seems strange. But here in the Nativity is Truth, not as complex theory or lofty ideal, but Truth wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Heb. 1:1-2a).
And when the child becomes a man, he still speaks in stories, parables, simple declarations of the way things are now that God has come in the flesh. With a crisp “Follow me,” he invites all to a kingdom where only the little ones are citizens — the very young, the very old, the very sick, the very poor — a kingdom where to receive a child is to receive Him. Here is a World where everything is turned upside down, the lowly ones are great, the great are brought low, and there are surprises for everyone. In this kingdom, grown-ups who use words that are too large and pray prayers that are too long and get too big and pompous have trouble getting through the door. Baby talk.
Later, when, in a sort of frivolous, childish gesture, he enters the capital city clownishly bouncing on the back of a fuzzy donkey, his beard does not hide the child beneath the man.
On that day, a long way from the manger at Bethlehem, he is welcomed into Jerusalem, not by the mayor with the key to the city, but by children with palm branches.
That day, this day, babies look at him and see one of their own.
Acknowledgement: Dean William Willimon