To be called "simple" is not usually a compliment. Yet one dictionary defines the word as meaning plain, honest and intelligible. So maybe it's not such a bad thing to be. Nevertheless, somehow we feel suspicious when something seems too simple. "Where is the catch?" we ask ourselves. It is almost as though we need some elaborate complexities before we can accept it.
Jesus understood this human weakness very well. Throughout his life he used simple illustrations to reveal God's plans. He used the corn, a relaxed meal with friends, fishing and wine-making, so vividly and effectively. Yet the Scribes and Pharisees constantly asked, "What's the catch?" each time they encountered him.
Simplicity is at the heart of Christ's message, "Your heavenly Father loves you as you are", no strings, no catch. Even if we turn away or do not believe this, he still loves us.
During the weeks of Advent, we listen to many rousing prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. At the end of this season we are presented with a little baby. The baby Jesus might appear too simple a solution to the problems of God's people. "What's the catch?" we may ask.
Christ's birth is the celebration of the great Emmanuel (God is with us) mystery. And God is with us so that we may know that we are infinitely loveable. To come as a baby was his first and greatest lesson to us, for it teaches us the most important lessons of all about God's attitude towards us.
A child is full of freshness and trusting love. Its eyes are to the future - to growing up. Unspoilt by prejudice or bitterness, each child is a new beginning. A child's loving confidence can make the greatest villain think again, and it can bring new life to the old and weary.
But the greatest lesson is one which we have all experienced when we have stretched out a tentative finger to a new baby - he or she grasps it with an uncanny strength. Stretch out just one finger to the Lord this Christmas and he will take strong hold of you for as long as you let him.
© Liguori Publications
Excerpt from Advent - A Quality Storecupboard The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer