We cannot do great things, but we can do small things with great love. —Mother Teresa
Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. —Luke 16:10
We live in a society that is preoccupied with greatness in the superficial sense. We’re enthralled by large numbers, impressive statistics, broken records. We’re constantly bombarded with grand gestures, frenetic enthusiasm and high drama, in news and entertainment and advertising (which increasingly come to resemble one another). Too often the result is that we feel our own lives to be hopelessly small, slow, bland and insignificant.
It’s not fair to blame this all on the consumer culture. Hype aside, there are tragedies in the world whose magnitude can make our best efforts feel absolutely inadequate. More selfishly, I at least seem to have been born with a desire to be noticeable and impressive that too often interferes with my ability to notice and to be useful.
Perhaps the Christmas story is the best antidote to this false concept of greatness. Perhaps what we need is to step back from all the noise around us, be quiet and remember how God came into the world, almost unnoticed, far removed from the centers of power. When he was a child growing up in a workingman’s family, when he was a young man presumably following his father’s trade, he was still God. Even when his recorded ministry began he spent a lot of time tramping from town to town and talking and listening attentively to the ordinary people he encountered. He didn’t brush them off in his haste to get to Jerusalem or to Rome and make a large and visible difference. And while he lived he told us that our dealings with the ordinary people around us were and would always be our dealings with him—with God.
That knowledge is a liberation: it frees us from the sense of hopeless insignificance, fills our lives with meaning and makes us fellow workers with God. It is also a responsibility. All the things we do and say out of fatigue or irritability or inattention are said and done to God.
But in spite of all that we do to God, God still loves us, comes to us, is born in and among us, again and again and again. Praise Him.