There is one word that I cringe at every time I hear it applied to a grown man, especially to an elderly man. Maybe you have heard this word, or you yourself have used it. I know it has been used by different people in regards to my own grandfathers and grandfathers-in-law.
This man who has been faithful to his wife for 50+ years, who worked his fingers to the bone to provide for the upbringing of his children, who brought them to the font of baptism, who drove them to catechism classes, who showed them the value of an honest day’s labor, who forced them into the cellar and held the doors shut as the violent winds of a tornado passed by outside.
What word is used to describe him? Good? Brave? Strong? Virtuous? No.
The word is: “CUTE.” I hate that word, or at least when it is misapplied to grown men. The word “cute” means basically the same thing as “pretty”. And if there is one thing that elderly men are not, and I do not think any of them would disagree with me on this, it is pretty. They are not cute.
So why do we call them that? Why do grown women, and sometimes men, who love their fathers and certainly wish them no disrespect, use that word, “cute”, to describe someone who is not?
I think the real reason has its roots in our sinful nature and the attempt of the devil to castrate the power out of anything that is truly good and right. Let me be very clear: I am not saying that everyone who uses this word in this way is aware of this. The devil has tricked us all. Our sinful nature has pulled the wool down over our eyes.
The word “cute” has given us the sinful ability to ignore the words and advice, the life and the lessons, of those who have gone before us. That way when my grandfather tells me, a grown man, that I should play more with my kids, I can say, “Oh, that’s cute.” And go on doing whatever I want.
What the patriarch of the family lets us know what he thinks about the way I dress, or about the company that I keep, or about my living arrangements, or about my dangerous drinking habits, or about the rampant sin out in the world, I can write him off. I can say, “Oh, that’s just grandpa being his cute little self.” And I can ignore him.
The word “cute” cuts the power out of a man’s or a woman’s words, for it happens to mothers as well as fathers. It tames them, makes them less dangerous, makes them more manageable. And that is precisely what they should not be, at least not by you and me.
So what does this have to do with Christmas? Why do I bring this up today of all days? Because Christmas is everyone’s favorite Christian holiday. And I believe the reason is that it is “cute”. Or at least we think it is.
Everyone loves cute little baby Jesus lying in the manger. They love the pretty angels that sing pretty songs. They love the gentle mother who quietly gave birth amidst the gently falling snow. They love the kind husband-to-be who passively watches on as the shepherds come and go.
It is such a quaint scene. It is so nice, so sweet, so cute. And that makes it manageable. That makes it tame. Cute baby Jesus does not hold any authority over me. He does not offend me, challenge me, call me to repentance or call me to action. And He certainly won't be forgiving my sins.
I can sing my Christmas carols, exchange some gifts, eat too much, kiss my girl under the mistletoe, and be on with my life. A cute Christmas is just far less dangerous to my sinful nature than, say, Good Friday or the Day of Jesus’ Resurrection. At least our sinful self would love to think so.
Allow me, then, to give you a different view of Christmas, a powerful, untamed, unmanageable, dangerous view of the birth of Jesus. Jesus Christ is not cute. Oh, I am sure he was as attractive of a baby as any other, but He did not come that we may look at Him in that way, and He certainly did not stay that way for long.
The birth of Jesus Christ is an invasion of this sin-saturated world by the One Righteous God. Listen to how the author of the book of Hebrews describes the Son of God and tell me how "cute" you think it is:
“1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
Jesus is superior to the angels. Well, the angels that appeared to the shepherds where not a pretty group of choir boys. They were an army of spiritual warriors who instill fear and awe into all who see them. Why else would the shepherds be so terrified at their appearance? It is a miracle that they offered praise and glory to God and peace on earth, rather than fire and destruction, which is what this sinful world deserved.
Mary may have been gentle, but she was also a pillar of faith. She was a righteous woman who had to suffer the scorn of the society around her as her pregnancy began to show. She is a faith-filled woman who courageously submitted to the will of God, not with fear and trepidation, but with joy and thanksgiving.
Joseph, I am sure, was kind. But he was also just, and virtuous. He also braved the scorn of the community by taking an unwed mother to be his wife. And he did all that was necessary to fulfill the Law in this child’s name: circumcised on the 8th day, dedicated at the temple, celebrating the Passover every single year.
The cute little baby lying in a manger was not here to coo at us for all eternity. He was born to die that we might live. In a short manner of time that child would grow into a man and He would quickly get about His heavenly Father’s business.
Jesus would reach out and lay His holy hands upon those with diseases that made them untouchable. Is that cute? He drove demons from the bodies of men and women and sent them back to hell. Was that cute? He carried His cross to Golgotha and patiently waited as ignorant soldiers drove railroad spikes through His hands and feet to secure Him to the instrument of His death. And what is more, He forgave them, He forgave you, even as they did it. There is nothing cute or cuddly about it.
Jesus Christ could not be tamed. He would not be managed. He was and is the most powerful man in the universe, and that makes Him dangerous. And He shall always remain so.
Even death could not tame Jesus Christ. He was too dangerous even for death to keep its grip on Him. And thank God that it is so. For with His resurrection Jesus delivered the final blow to the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. He brought life and immortality to light.
Cute just can’t cut it. It took a dangerous man to hold the power of the universe in His hands and to use it to heal, feed, and comfort. It took an untamed Jesus to die and rise for your sins and mine. It took the unmanageable Son of God to conquer death and give freedom from the grave to all who trust in Him.
Our sinful nature wants Jesus to remain cute, tame, and manageable. He is anything but. Even as a babe lying in the manger Jesus Christ is the most dangerous person ever born. He is the embodiment of unimaginable righteousness, power, and glory. And He exercises that power to save us from our sins, to raise us from the dead.
This Christmas, I am not asking you to throw away your angels that look pretty or to put away your precious nativity scenes. I am asking you to take the time and listen to your elders, hear what advice they have to give, and don't write them off as "cute" or "old fashioned".
I am reminding you that some people are not in our lives to be tame and manageable. They are there to be dangerous. They are there to challenge us. They are there to save us.