One of the most infuriating parts of the human experience is the reality of constraints.
Despite living in a culture that tells us we can become anything we wish to be, our day to day experience proves the absurdity of the “chase your dreams” project. Even as we seek to impose our will on the world, the very effort required to do so reveals that we are profoundly limited. We have a particular body, a certain skin color, a pre-assigned set of skills and preferences which, while malleable, are also stubbornly and surprisingly innate. We have a particular location, and only one location, at all times. Even our social media personas fail to fulfill our yearnings for omnipresence, a sad fact repeatedly proven with each wave of FOMO we attempt to suppress.
We wish we could fashion reality to fit our mood. But each morning, we wake up to a sun that persists in shining light at a time over which we have no control, in a body we did not choose, knowing in a matter of hours, no matter how many drugs we take, that unchosen body will tire and force us into sleep.
As it turns out, the world is given to us, not made by us.
Even from a Christian perspective, there is a certain amount of injustice in this arrangement. If God is so good, and so loving, then why would he force people to inhabit specific bodies in specific places, regardless of their consent?
While rational responses to such questions certainly exist, I think the Christmas story provides an even better answer.
Through the incarnation, God joined us in our constraints.
He inhabited a particular body in a particular place. He did not trade around or hop from one body to another. He did not remain distant, esoteric, spiritual. He forfeited transcendence.
His incarnation was an act of self-limitation. It was the opposite of what every human seeks. Purposeful constraint. Finitude embraced.
And yet he was the perfect human. He lived the fullest life. A life not of self-expression, but self-denial for the good of others.
So this Christmas, whatever the constraint you find yourself grating against, God invites you to turn to Jesus, the utterly constrained Savior.
In him, may we discover that fulfillment comes not from throwing off every constraint, but from learning to humbly serve and bless others in the midst of whatever circumstance we find ourselves.