It is Christmas Eve, the night when God comes for us, comes in the only way we could receive God-with-us.
If the infinite God is to reach us finite humans, there will have to be some translation, some accommodation. And all the work will have to be on God’s part.
There is an affecting story, told by the surgeon and writer Richard Seltzer in his book, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery, about a young woman with a tumor in her cheek. In order to excise the tumor, Seltzer is forced to cut a tiny but important nerve which controls the muscles on one side of her mouth. The woman is scarred for life, her face slightly droopy on one side, her smile crooked.
Dr. Seltzer writes of his visit to her hospital room after the surgery.
I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of her facial nerve, the one to the muscles in her mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. As a surgeon, I had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh, I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.
Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. “Who are they,” I ask myself, “he with his wry mouth who gaze and touch each other so generously?”
The woman speaks:
“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say. “It is because the nerve was cut.”
She nods, is silent. But the young man smiles.
“I like it,” he says. “It’s kind of cute.”
All at once I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful of my presence, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I’m so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate hers, to show her that their kiss still works.
I remember that the gods appeared in ancient Greece as mortals, and I hold my breath and let the wonder in.
So God comes to us, accommodates his lips to ours in the form of a human child, to breathe into us the breath of life, and, yes, to give us the kiss of joy and delight.