The Christ Child: A Bundle of Atoms and Stardust
In "Dawn's" retelling of Christ's birth, an ordinary human child, made of atoms and stardust just like us, enters our world in a story too fantastic for words.
This excerpt is taken from Dawn by Cees Dekker, Corien Oranje, and Gijsbert van den Brink. Translated by Harry Cook. English Translation Copyright (c) 2021 by Harry Cook. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.
It was already deep into the night when the baby boy was born. To be honest, there was nothing unusual about him. This was a very ordinary human child who, after the birth howled lustily and only became silent when tightly wrapped in cloth and laid in the arms of his mother. This baby, this bundle of atoms, formed from stardust, could he really be the Son of the Creator? It was a bizarre idea, too fantastic for words. I knew the Creator felt very involved in his creation, particularly with people. I also knew that he’d long been busy with a plan to come to their rescue, but would he really go so far as to take on the rescue himself? Would he make himself one with his creation in order to rescue it? Was it possible that the Creator of the cosmos who carried this whole universe in his hand had stepped into his own creation in the person of his son? No, stepped into was not the right phrase; he was squeezed into it, screaming and struggling, unable to keep himself warm, talk, or look after himself. He was completely helpless; he wouldn’t survive two days if there wasn’t a woman to take care of him and feed him with milk from her own breasts.
If this was true, then this was the opposite of the Big Bang, as the Creator—who had brought forth the universe, space, and time from the smallest possible germ—laid aside his position of power to make himself incredibly small . . . to become a human baby. Really?
I couldn’t comprehend it. We’d expected the rescue from the human side, an offspring of Abraham, of David, who would make a new start. A person who would receive a special assignment, who would do what Womuntu, Abraham, David, and all their descendants had not been able to do. Yet, this was a human. A tiny human being. A descendant of David even. But if what Joseph and Mary had said was true, the child wasn’t only human but also the Son of the Creator himself.
This was a very ordinary human child…This baby, this bundle of atoms, formed from stardust, could he really be the Son of the Creator? It was a bizarre idea, too fantastic for words.
After the initial euphoria I started to have some concerns. I didn’t want to talk about them because it seemed inappropriate. But Aris articulated exactly what I was thinking.
“I don’t know if I can comment on it,” she said carefully. “But if all this is true . . . is this really such a good plan? Why would the Creator do such a thing? Put himself in a place where he is so dependent on people?”
“That’s what I think too,” said Ensis. “To be honest, I don’t think this is wise. The Creator has seen what’s become of his world, hasn’t he? And what people have made of it? How few people there are that answer his love? Why didn’t he wait until they went extinct, until a new species emerged with more intelligence? One that is not so foolish as to walk away from him?”
“I personally think he should’ve done away with the Milky Way and started somewhere else in another galaxy,” continued Aris, who always looked for radical solutions. “Or he could start a new universe. That might be even better.”
“It probably has to do with a dimension that we can’t understand,” said Solon, “with that love he’s talked about so often. Of course he could’ve made a start somewhere else. But apparently he has given his heart to Homo sapiens. He loves them so much that he wants to share in their lives.”
[From our vantage point] we looked down on someone who (if it was true) was one with the Creator of heaven and earth. We saw a helpless baby who, right at this moment, was burping milk all over his mother. His greatness couldn’t be seen.
Down below us, we saw how the woman was busy with the baby as if she’d never done anything else. “Now, little boy,” the woman said, and I saw how she wrapped an extra blanket around him. “There, nice and warm. This is better, isn’t it?”
“Jesus,” said her husband. “We’re going to call you Jesus, little boy. Now look, Mary. He has a nose like yours. Shall I lay him in the feed trough? Then you can sleep for a little while.”
“No,” said his mother, “not yet. I want to keep him with me first. Do you want to drink, Jesus? Oh look, Joseph. He was hungry.”
“Look at those little fingers.”
“And those little nails.”
“I’m going to make a carpenter out of you, Jesus. I am going to make you into a very good carpenter.”
From our spiderweb we looked down on someone who (if it was true) was one with the Creator of heaven and earth. We saw a helpless baby who, right at this moment, was burping milk all over his mother. His greatness couldn’t be seen.
“Okay,” I said, “suppose he wants to live among people, and he wants to take over the task of Womuntu. Then why does he come in this form? Wouldn’t it have been better for him to come as an adult, as a mighty emperor, or as a wise philosopher? No one will recognize him now, let alone be in awe of him.”
Voices came from outside. A bang on the door. The little Jesus, who now lay in the feed trough, began to cry. He was so tightly wrapped that he could move neither his little arms nor legs—the normal reflex of a newborn monkey or baby when startled by an unexpected sound.
Joseph got up, walked to the door, and opened it a crack. “Sorry to disturb you,” said a man’s voice. “But . . . eh . . . there was an angel who said that this was where we had to be. Is that right?”
…why does he come in this form? Wouldn’t it have been better for him to come as an adult, as a mighty emperor, or as a wise philosopher? No one will recognize him now, let alone be in awe of him.”
The door was opened further, and a group of rough- looking men came in.
“Hey, man, look. In the feed trough! He’s lying there.”
“This has to be him. The savior of the world that the angel spoke about.”
The men fell on their knees in front of the feed trough and said a prayer of thanks. “Thank you, God of Israel. You have not forgotten us.”
“And you thought he wouldn’t be recognized, Proton?” chuckled Solon.
As soon as they were able, the family moved into the guest room of the farmhouse. I’d expected a stream of visitors to come to the baby, but that didn’t happen. A single neighbor woman, a few small children who’d heard the crying and became curious. No one else.
“I’d expected something grander for a king who was so important that his birth could be read in the heavens.”
But one evening, a while after the baby was born, the stall door opened again. Two men came in who, from the sound of their voices, were not from Israel. They talked to each other about where they could best let their camels rest.
“Not here,” said the older of the two while he looked around. “This is way too small. We’ll just leave them outside. Our masters won’t be staying that long.”
“Strange place, this,” said the other, a man with a short beard. “I’d expected something grander for a king who was so important that his birth could be read in the heavens. I really wonder if we’re in the right place. I mean, there aren’t even any guards here. The masters were able to go straight through to upstairs. They didn’t even have to request an audience.”
The older man shrugged his shoulders. “They probably know what they’re doing. They know more about the stars than we do.”
There were footsteps that came down the stairs and enthusiastic voices. Then the sound of camel hooves, slowly fading into the distance.
“You see, I was right,” said Solon who sometimes tended to be a know- it- all. “This was a high- level visit. Foreigners. So it is written in the stars, isn’t it! The birth of this baby. I assume it’s going to be busy around here. Once this is known, everyone’s going to come here.”
But there was no stream of visitors. It remained quiet until a few days later. Then in the middle of the night, all hell broke loose.
Stomping boots, shouted commands. “You know what has to be done. Two years old and younger. All boys. See to it that no one escapes!”
Hard knocking on doors. Rapid footsteps. Screaming. Crying.
“No, not my child! Please, spare him, please!”
“I beg you, kill me, not my son!”
“God of Israel! What are they doing! My child! My baby!” The desperate crying and wailing were drowned out by loud voices. The door of the stall was thrown open. Men came in. Soldiers, if I’m right. They had torches with them. “Is there anything here?”
“I don’t think so. No, nobody.”
“Look at the tools there, in the corner. I think people have been here recently. Turn the place upside down.”
The feed trough was thrown over and the straw was tossed around.
“We’ll just burn the place down.”
We’d heard rumors before about an opponent of the Creator. Now we saw him in action. Not personally—I don’t think it’s possible that we, as matter, can observe the immaterial—but evil was active here, and I could feel its presence almost physically. In the rage of the soldiers, in their determination, in the lack of any compassion. In one way or another, the opponent had somehow come to know about the rescue plan of the Creator.
Why would the Creator do such a thing? Put himself in a place where he is so dependent on people?…he has given his heart to Homo sapiens. He loves them so much that he wants to share in their lives.”
I don’t know what he feared from a baby, but it was clear what he wanted to achieve with this brutal action. He wanted to get rid of the Creator. This he could not do. Joseph, Mary, and the baby had just departed the previous night. According to one of our sources, an angel had warned Joseph of what was going to happen. They’d fled abruptly and would seek refuge in a foreign country where no one was waiting for them.
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About the authors
Gijsbert Van den Brink
Gayle Boss | Let Compassion Take Root