Speculations on the beginning of the universe fascinate me. There is, of course, the Big Bang Theory (not the television show). It is the most commonly known hypothesis, proposing that all existing matter was at one time compressed into a tiny, infinitely dense speck called a singularity. It then exploded (what caused the blast is unclear), sending stars and planets shooting across infinite space. At least that’s the theory. It continues to be reshaped, questioned, and for some, disregarded as additional information is collected and new theories proposed.
But the idea that something of such great magnitude as the universe could be squeezed to a point infinitely dense and minute is what I find so interesting. Is that possible? And if true, what might it have to say about the God who brought the universe into existence?
The study of nature and physics, I believe, can sometimes confirm and reveal the thoughts and values of our Creator. As I get to know my God, I have a hard time believing that anything He designed and made was random. Jesus relates water to the life-giving work of His Spirit. He also likens the consuming of bread (or any food) to be like the spiritual nourishment He provides for those who depend completely on Him. Wind and breath are equated with the work of the Holy Spirit. Many concrete physical realities are used to help us begin to understand abstract spiritual truth. The problem, of course, is that my brain is too tiny to take in all the ways creation reveals His work, His values, and His character. Yet it’s all there in front of us. And every once in a while scientific study scratches below the surface.
Big God, Little People
Going back to the universe. We have to believe in a mighty God if we understand that He created everything that exists. But why would a being so mighty and infinite in capacity be interested in things that are so limited and tiny? The writer of Psalm 8 appears to have wondered the same thing:
“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” (Psalm 8:3 NLT)
The Almighty, Majestic, Heavenly Father takes an interest in such infinitesimal and troublesome creatures as us. By the standards of human logic, there’s no satisfying explanation for why. And yet our entire faith rests on the mystery of HE WHO IS SO GREAT AND ETERNAL choosing to give and sacrifice for something so apparently minuscule and temporal as a human.
And then there’s Christmas.
More is Less
Traditional theology says that the same eternal God and Creator of the infinite universe compressed Himself into a human baby. This is known as the Incarnation. Once again, it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem like something humans would make up to convince ourselves of God’s greatness. We tend not to see much worth in things, events, or people that appear poor, diminutive, limited, and unimpressive. So what might be the meaning behind an infant born to a destitute couple in a stable among a people group that the surrounding nations considered contemptible? In the natural human mind, not much.
According to God, however, a small beginning is a shrewd place to hide a great treasure. He isn’t random in what He does. Immense power and perplexing surprises are often pressed into tiny packages – easy to overlook and requiring a humble heart to find. To learn to think more like God, we have to let go of our natural demand to understand things on our own terms. We have to affirm that He is God, and we are not. We just don’t “get” Him.
We have developed our own definition of greatness. It usually involves more of everything: more money, more control over others, more human affirmation, more stuff, more attention from others, more education, more influence, more comfort, more self-satisfaction, more, more, more. It takes a long time to then discover that all of this “more” is ultimately empty of any long-term life or real power.
Look for the Small Packages
There is so much that can be said about the birth of Jesus and what this historical event means for us. But one compelling thing to remember is that God wants us to look for the power of His kingdom in the bundles that appear to be of no consequence – the ones that are easy to overlook in events, those people around us, and even ourselves.
The Old Testament prophet recorded God’s admonition to the Israelites after they returned from their Babylonian captivity. Some of them were bemoaning the less-than-awesome appearance of the new temple that was being built. But they were rebuked: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin . . .” (Zechariah 4:10a NLT).
It seems God might have been trying to prepare them for what was yet to come. The mighty Messiah was not going to show up in the way they expected: large, grandiose, and leading an impressive army. He was going to begin His work in a way that would confuse those who were depending on their own value system to make sense of the world. An aspect of God’s character that so many even today fail to recognize was being offered to those with “eyes to see.” Meekness. There are facets of God that only those who value true humility can comprehend and appreciate.
A Different Value System
God’s value for the small and insignificant has some practical implications for me to consider in how I assess reality.
There is an other-worldly value system that baffles and embarrasses the logic and wisdom of this world. It initially seems insignificant, silly, or even worthless on its face value and is typically overlooked. And yet God would have those who are interested in true power, beauty, wisdom, and glory for the long-term to open their eyes a little wider, look a little deeper, and perhaps stoop a little lower.
He Confounds the Wise
Some aspects of reality are hard for “smart” people to wrap their minds around. The theory of the Big Bang reminds us that explosive power can be packed into a point that may be invisible to the ordinary eye. The birth of Jesus tells us that the fullness of God’s character, redemption and life were compressed into and hidden inside a tiny, mundane package – a truly divine singularity.
He still works that way today. Those easily-overlooked bundles that seem to be of no consequence have potential to explode with transformative power. And when they do, it catches us off guard, surprising many.
May the Almighty God open our eyes this Christmas to better see His value system. His power is at work in small and insignificant beginnings – like a baby in a manger.