The God Who Became Small

An annual December posting:

Whom have we, Lord, like you
The Great One who became small, the Wakeful who slept,
The Pure One who was baptized, the Living One who died,
The King who abased himself to ensure honor for all.
Blessed is your honor!

St. Ephrem the Syrian


We draw near to the Feast of our Lord’s Nativity, and I cannot fathom the smallness of God. Things in my life loom so large and every instinct says to overcome the size of a threat by meeting it with a larger threat. But the weakness of God, stronger than death, meets our human life/death by becoming a child – the smallest of us all – man at his weakest – utterly dependent.

And His teaching will never turn away from that reality for a moment. Our greeting of His mission among us is marked by misunderstanding, betrayal, denial and murder. But He greets us with forgiveness, love, and the sacrifice of self.

This way of His is more than a rescue mission mounted to straighten out what we had made crooked. His coming among us is not only action  but also revelation. He does not become unlike Himself in order to make us like Him. The weakness, the smallness, the forgiveness – all that we see in His incarnation – is a revelation of the Truth of God. He became the image of Himself, that we might become the image we were created to be.

It seems strange to speak of God as humble, and yet this is what is revealed in Scripture. Cultural references to God are full of power and mankind’s own claim to wisdom that somehow the all-powerful God has not straightened things out yet. On this basis some will even come to reject the very existence of God. The power of God is nothing like our power. Though He created all that is, He did so out of nothing. This bears no resemblance to anything we think of when we “create.” And He who created is also He who sustains, and yet in His humility we cannot directly see His sustenance, unless He has given us eyes to see.

The all-powerful reveals Himself in His weakness, and not, I suspect, because it was a “backdoor” plan. Rather I believe the all-powerful revealed Himself most fully, most completely on the Cross because this is indeed what the power of God looks like. I do not know how to fathom the reality that the power that can only be seen in the Cross of Christ, is the same power that created the universe, but I believe it is so.

We never know fullness, until we empty ourselves into His emptiness. We never know love until we are drowned in the waters of His mercy that do not kill but make alive. We cannot see the great until we see Him very small. He who enters the womb of a Virgin will also enter the waters of Jordan, and will also enter infinitessimally small spaces of hades’ yawning gape. And there we shall see greatness indeed, He who is everywhere present and fillest all things.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





7 responses to “The God Who Became Small”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    Photo: The star marks the spot in the cave of Bethlehem where Christ was born.

  2. Susan Cushman Avatar

    “…the reality that the power that can only be seen in the Cross of Christ, is the same power that created the universe….” This is so hard to wrap our Western minds around. It takes the Holy Spirit to reveal this, and soft, humble hearts to receive it as true. I believe…. help my unbelief.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeremiah Nelson, Veronica Paddy. Veronica Paddy said: The God Who Became Small – An annual December posting: Whom have we, Lord, like you The Great One who became small, … […]

  4. Romanós Avatar

    I just visited your blog this evening after not having dropped by in several days, and behold! a post with a similar thought to one I posted at my blog just a day later. In mine, I mused about the significance of size, but the smallness of God, drawing on some thoughts I learned from C S Lewis years ago, was where I was heading.

    Could it be that the approach of the feast of the Nativity of Christ brings us to the same spot, wherever we are? I linked my post to my name, where usually I just link my blog landing page, in case anyone wants to compare our posts, after I continue to add new items.

    Christ is born! Let us glorify Him!

  5. Brian Avatar

    In manger lay the helpless Babe
    Yet Maker of the earth
    Omnipotent, from Heaven sent
    By Virgin given birth
    The One beyond all knowing
    Is seen my men at last
    His Holiness veiled in our flesh
    Now lay within our grasp!

    Our great God – small, weak, dependent (!), and held in the arms of men. What a glorious Mystery of love!

  6. Ibn Battenti Avatar
    Ibn Battenti

    Indeed, and how right that it should be this way!

  7. […] The latest Glory to God podcast, You Never Pray Alone, is less than fifteen minutes long, but packs a lot into those minutes. The individual is preeminent in modern thought and consideration and that permeates much of modern Christianity. There is little room left for our common humanity. One great line from the podcast: The Church is what salvation looks like, as troubling a thought as that might be. And on this Christmas day, I also want to share Fr. Stephen’s blog post, The God Who Became Small. […]

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