Last Monday the Daily Mail ran a ‘news’ story showing the Duchess of Cambridge looking weary as she did her Christmas shopping.
This didn’t just make it into the Mail’s infamous online ‘Sidebar of Shame’ which churns out a daily stream of unflattering photos of celebrities caught at their worst moments: models showing a couple of ounces of fat, people in their 60s with grey hairs in evidence, and far worse. This made it onto the front page, with more photos and the full story on page 3 (which actor David Schneider tweeted out with the mock headline “Woman is human – shocking proof!”).
But this isn’t a rant about how our gossip-hungry culture gorges itself day after day on morsels of the misfortune and misery of others.
It’s about Christmas.
It shouldn’t be shocking to discover that a girl from Reading sometimes gets tired, that thin people sometimes gain weight, and that older people get grey hairs, yet that fact that these stories sell (and sell, and sell, and sell) reveals the different expectations we have of celebrities. We hold them to a higher standard, not just of behaviour but of physical appearance, health and energy, too. We expect them to be somehow other than us, and we hound them day and night, looking for flaws, seeing if they really are all we hoped they’d be. Along with each crow of triumph at a broken relationship, failed diet or drunken outburst, comes a tiny deflation of our hopes and dreams. We were looking for a hero, but we found just another human. So we sigh and wait for the next sparkly starlet or rugged romeo to rekindle the flame.
What we’re looking for is a god.
Yet even when God walked among us he took on our human frailties to do so.
That favourite carol for children, ‘Away in a Manger’ might claim that ‘no crying he makes’, but that’s highly unlikely. As an adult Jesus experienced hunger, thirst and tiredness, so there’s no reason to think that he wouldn’t have experienced them as an infant, or that he would have had the necessary linguistic skills to express his needs without crying from Day 1. If he had, I think at least one of the gospel writers would have mentioned it.
I don’t know about you, but I forget how shocking it is that Jesus got tired. He was God, but in order to bring us back into union with God, he was willing to face the ridicule of a world that probably wasn’t that different from ours today. They sought signs and wonders before they’d believe in him, and they mocked him when, on the cross, he ‘couldn’t’ save himself. Doubtless the equivalent of the Daily Mail was around pointing out every time he yawned or stretched his aching back. ‘They say he’s the Messiah, but look – he’s just like us!’
He could walk on water, but most of the time he chose to use a boat.
He could turn water into wine and make a loaf of bread feed a thousand people, but he had no home, no possessions.
He said he was the Messiah, but he was just like us.
And that’s why he came as a baby at Christmas, he needed to be just like us so that he could take the punishment for our sins, but also so that he could show us that it’s OK to be human. There are strands of philosophy that hold the body to be evil, or at least unholy. The soul, they hold, is the real essence of the person, the body is just an encumbrance preventing us from being all we could be.
Yet Jesus shows that not to be true.
I hope Kate has the wisdom to know that it’s OK to be tired – and to look it. I hope you have that wisdom, too. In the hustle and bustle and chaos of Christmas, with so much to do, so many people to please, such high expectations of the perfect celebration, remember, it’s OK to get tired, and to not live up to what others expect of you. It’s OK to have limitations.
There’s nothing shameful about being human – there can’t be; because – shock – Jesus was.
This post originally appeared on Think Theology.