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The Power of the Helpless Infant on the Human Heart

Published:
January 2, 2024
December 18, 2023
Read this article about the movie 'Children of Men' to learn a Christmas lesson about the power of a tiny infant.

My favorite Christmas movie is “Children of Men,” a 2006 post-apocalyptic, extremely violent action-thriller in which humans face extinction because they have lost the ability to procreate. It’s not exactly merry and bright. And it’s not technically a Christmas movie, either – the holiday doesn’t appear once. 

I think of it as a Christmas movie, though, because its themes are extremely Christmas-y. In the film, which takes place in the year 2027 after 18 years of total, global human infertility, a young refugee woman named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is pregnant — the only known pregnant woman in the world. When it is revealed that a militant group wants to use Kee’s baby as a political pawn, a jaded former activist named Theo Faron (Clive Owen) accompanies her on a quest to connect with a secretive humanitarian organization researching human infertility. 

Toward the end of the movie (spoiler alert!), Kee gives birth to her daughter inside a refugee camp-turned-war zone. As Theo walks with Kee through the fighting, the crying baby causes an immediate ceasefire. Two soldiers genuflect as the child passes. Watch the scene below (note: strong language).

It’s one of the most moving sequences I’ve ever seen in a film. And here are two of the Christmas-adjacent truths this scene and the movie as a whole reveals: life is a miracle and God’s vast power is tiny. 

1. Life is a miracle. 

The world’s first baby in 18 years shocks everyone who meets Kee in “Children of Men,” both before and after the child is born. Most of the time, except for momentous occasions like the three days my own kids were born, I take the miracle of life for granted. I take almost everything good for granted; I get distracted by bad traffic, head colds, and other little annoyances. The first things to go are gratitude and a sense of wonder and awe. Christmas should shake me out of my usual daze. It’s a holiday centered on the in-breaking of the divine life into our midst in the person of a baby, insisting that life is miraculous and worth celebrating. 

My favorite quote on the miracle of life — human, plant, and animal — is from the author/farmer Wendell Berry, who writes in “The Art of the Commonplace” about how we never stop encountering wonders in the outdoors. “[W]e see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread,” he writes. “Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine — which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.”

Life — that anything organic and growing exists at all instead of nothingness; that, for example, I am able to think up words and write them and you can read this piece and reflect on it  — is a miracle. I wonder how my life would be different if I were conscious of that truth more often.

2. God’s vast power is tiny. 

There are two diametrically opposed instances of power in that “Children of Men” scene at the refugee camp. First, there is the power of guns and bombs. Those things have real power to destroy lives. But we know from weapons’ repeated use throughout human history that violence begets violence. To make the world better, for peace and justice to reign, we need to turn swords into plowshares, to use a Scriptural image. Violent power is not the path to real and lasting goodness.

The second type of power in this scene is revealed by the internal change Kee’s baby causes in everyone around her. Fighters stop fighting. Guns fall silent. Soldiers are moved to prayer. For a moment, anger, fear, and desperation are replaced with hope.

This latter power — that of the helpless infant on the human heart — is how God shows the nature of God’s power at Christmas. Think of all the flashier, splashier ways the Son of God could have come to earth — on a flaming chariot, maybe, accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack. Or Christ could’ve come as a general of a huge army. Instead, God arrives crying, wordless, tiny; in a stable; born to nobody of worldly significance. Kee’s baby, the Christ-child, any baby can melt our hearts and completely reorient our priorities. Rather than obliterating the earth like an atom bomb, God chose a quieter entrance, a softer power.

If you want to encounter the vast power of God, do not shoot a gun. Instead, hold an infant for a few minutes and notice what happens to you. Make a recording of the nonsensical baby talk you speak; notice how you start gently swaying and bouncing in place; feel hope for the future wash over you. This is the power that “Children of Men” captures so poignantly, and the reason it stands at the top of my all-time Christmas movie list.

Creators:
Mike Jordan Laskey
Published:
January 2, 2024
December 18, 2023
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