Selfie. It is a new word in the English language and officially named Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013. Selfie is a “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”
Yes, I've done more than my fair share of selfies, usually with kids from the church during youth trips, of course. But there was one at Roy Rogers with Bob Watson.. and another before the baptism with Jack Buchanan. (All of which I promptly and proudly posted to Facebook.)
The Christmas story could perhaps be considered a series of “divine selfies “– snapshots of God who becomes one of us, enters human form and shares himself with us in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. If there was a smartphone to capture the God self in Jesus, it would not be one that most would be proud to post. The divine selfies has a backdrop of poverty, dislocation, scandal of an unwed, pregnant teen. The squalor of a manger is hardly picturesque.
It’s not just the birth of Jesus that makes for unusual selfies. Nothing about Jesus’ ministry would make for a great selfie, for he lacked glamour, pride and prestige. Imagine a smart phone capturing shots from Jesus’ adult ministry. Click - Jesus eating with outcasts. Click - in the home of a scoundrel and cheat. Click-click- touching a leper and talking to a Samaritan woman. None of these got him a popular “thumbs up” then and they certainly would not today.
No, God in Christ Jesus does not seek to impress us with his selfie. He has all power and authority, yet he lowers himself as servant, washes feet and welcomes children. His final, earthly selfie is the most controversial of all: Jesus on a cross flanked by two criminals.
During these next 25 days, take comfort in knowing that the one who we welcome as God-With-Us entered our world in a not-so-picture-perfect fashion. Rejoice that God doesn’t need perfection in order to draw near us. For instance, if you get caught up in elaborate gift giving – remember that the Son of God was not born in a perfectly decorated, sterile hospital nursery. If you keep a hectic schedule and find yourself buying things to make the season meaningful- remember Love doesn’t need stuff. If you think Christmas won’t be perfect because of strife between family members– remember the Son of God didn’t chose the perfect family unit, he chose the heart of the two who could receive him.
God’s love wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a forgotten barn behind a busy inn is a most unlikely selfie. It is also our hope. It is our hope because in this humble beginning of God’s relationship with us, we see that he is not afraid or ashamed to draw near to us just as we are. And he does more than just draw near us – he brings us into new life again.