Adoption at Christmas

I picked up a vial of myrrh and frankincense because I had heard of these spices my whole life, but I didn’t know their smell. My curiosity satisfied, the vial sat on top of the microwave until the top cracked, it spilled, and I didn’t know. Craig kept thinking he hadn’t washed all his shaving cream off; I looked for veggies, fruit going bad. It wasn’t a bad smell just an unusual one. I hadn’t yet given meaning to the scents.

When I picked up oiled papers, we figured it out, and the scent lingered. I wondered if the toddler Jesus liked the smell. Did Mary put a dab behind her ear? Somehow the physicality of smelling what Jesus smelled has sent me on a humanity of Jesus Advent season. Did the hay itch? Did Mary and Joseph find Jesus naughty? He was the first child, so they were on a learning curve of what is developmentally normal and parentally inconvenient. Did He get grumpy when He needed a nap? (I know He was perfect, but I’m thinking grumpy and tired aren’t actually sinful, just human.)

Then my youngest asked about Joseph as Jesus’ father, trying to figure this all out. Using language familiar to our family, I tried to explain the complex and beautiful in known frameworks. God was Jesus’ father, and Joseph adopted Jesus. Then I started wondering how did Joseph’s attachment to Jesus go as His adoptive father? Was the angel’s visit and dream enough to explain Mary’s pregnancy when others began to comment, tease, taunt assuming the child was Joseph’s? Did Joseph’s closest friend or brother know about the dream and angel visitation? In moments of doubt, how did Joseph relate to Mary and to Jesus?

Then I thought about Jesus’ attachment to Joseph.

Since the whole reason God created humans was to extend the relational delight of the Trinity, I quickly decided Jesus’ attachment to Joseph must have been a thing of beauty and calmed Joseph’s heart of any residual pain and doubt.

Somehow, my mind jumped that the God-human baby Jesus came for an in-country visit. And I paused, wondered.

You see in international adoption some countries require the adoptive parents to come and meet the child, meet the culture, meet the judge prior to proceeding with finalizing of papers. As the adoptive parent, you fall more deeply in love with the in flesh child you have only had a photo of, you taste the food, you experience the smells and sounds; you observe child rearing practices. You watch, take in your child’s home, trying to capture this space and time, so that you can answer their future coming questions. You want to understand the subtleties of social graces; you pick up key phrases – not just the usual traveler’s greetings, store questions, but the parenting language of – toilet language, favourite food terms, safety words. What does the village look like? How do people cook, clean, dance? What happens at bath time? You buy handiworks made by people of the place to let your home represent your child. As the adoptive parent, you want to understand everything about your child, the child’s world, your mind and heart take in realities that photos and words can never show or articulate; your whole being pulses with trying to “get” your child and to bridge the child to their new world.

This is what Jesus did; he came for God’s in-country visit. While the Lord created our world and us, the human experience was not His until Christ came for the in-country human immersion. Our Heavenly Father wanted us to be able to approach Him with confidence and ease, so He limited Himself into the realities of a baby and then a man – enabling the Father to understand the adopted child’s reality empathetically. Jesus came to bridge us to life in the Kingdom of God.

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17

 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16

When we were in our VERY long adoption process, one of our kids asked, “When my little sister comes, will I be half Haiti?” He captured the expansion of our reality to incorporate as much of hers as possible.

When children of God come to Him, He is fully human. Jesus captured the human experience and shows us how to incorporate as much of our human reality as possible into life in His kingdom. He came to help us be at one with the Heavenly Father, to help our attachment.

Yesterday I walked home and passed snow covered outdoor statues at a neighbourhood temple. Many thoughts later, I realized that Jesus knew what it felt like to be cold, and somehow it makes him more beautiful and relatable on bigger, harder things. Christ’s humanity helps me live at one with His perfect divinity.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family

by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

This is what he wanted to do, and

it gave him great pleasure.

Ephesians 1:5