There are those moments that force us to catch our breath. It's when something amazing or awful is about to happen and we don't know what. In those moments, everything hangs in the balance. You are sure that diverging paths in life can be traced back to this instant. And time seems to completely stop.
In my imagination, everything stopped for an instant when Jesus was born. I don't mean literally. I don't think that people felt something happen or that, when the baby first cried, bears on the other side of the world stood up and took notice. I think if a person wasn't in the right place at the right time then that night was fairly pedestrian.
But on a cosmic and spiritual level, I feel like time froze. I don't know what that even looks like, but I feel like it had to happen. Incarnation was God's gambit. On paper, this was a risky move. God was becoming vulnerable. This child could and would be hurt in a multitude of ways. Yet here God was going through with it.
Scripture tells us that love was the catalyst for this gamble. You have to wonder if the heavens shook their heads at such a move. Humanity had made it pretty clear they weren't interested in God; at least not consistently. Why would God love these people? Why would God be lowered to live among them? Why would God give them this kind of chance? That's why I have to imagine cosmic catching of breath.
There is a beautiful song by Future of Forestry which finitely captures this moment. The second verse of "The Earth Stood Still" reads:
Shepherds stirred under starry skies
Tasting grace that would change their lives
The angels trembled and the demons did too
For they knew very well what pure grace would do
Pure grace. I love that line. Psalm 46:10 exhorts its listeners to "Be still, and know that I am God." In the psalm that stillness is defined by God's mightiness; the way in which God is strength and refuge. Those are things that rightly bring stillness to those who follow God. Yet the stillness that we find on Christmas day is brought about by risky vulnerability brought about by grace. Both are of God.
Yet especially around Advent and Christmas, I find myself in stillness over how God entered into humanity. So I don't reflect on the might of God; at least not how we understand might. I stilled by God's grace and by God's willingness to become small and frail and how that moment that stopped everything is seemingly so much powerful than anything we could have made up.
The hope of the world and a baby boy
I remember him well like I was there that night
My heart was there and I felt the chill
When love came down and the earth stood still