There are tons of things going on tonight. Each family has their own gig. Some families are here, you are here. Some of us have been together this night 24 times. Some less. Each family comes for its own reason. Some its tradition, you just go to church on Christmas Eve. That what you do. For others it is a way to start the holiday off right. For others, it is a moment to reflect and catch our breaths in the midst of this holiday season. For some of our church family, this service is not part of their schedule and that is OK. Life has a myriad of obligations.
As I think about this night one word comes to mind. The word is ‘baby’. I looked back at some of the reflections I have done in past years. I noticed that I was moved by some songs and shared them with you. One year, and maybe for than one, it was ‘Mary, Did You Know?’. That song still moves me and I love to listen to it. In fact, as I wrote this I loaded it to listen again. The new preferred version is by Pentatonix, though any rendition works. Another song that really resonates this time of year is ‘A Baby Changes Everything.’ I only know the Faith Hill version. And she played right after the other song. I could again list all the songs I love, but I did that last year.
The recurring theme in most of these songs, the scriptures read, and the cards we exchange is a baby. Not just any baby, but THE BABY. Some might find it hard to believe, but I am really into babies. I might look at one and say something about they all look alike or OK, it’s just a baby, but I don’t mean it. Tomorrow our sermon will center on and feature a baby, but that is tomorrow.
I suppose the whole baby thing is on my heart this year is because for the third time in three years we have added a baby to our family. Babies are such fun. They don’t really do much, eat, sleep, mess their diapers, and cry. Yet, we love them. We love them before they make their appearance on the world’s stage, while still in the womb. With the arrival last month of the latest Thacker baby, Jonathan, I found cause to reflect on what babies bring to the table. There are lots, but here are just a few.
For one, they bring a sense of anticipation and hope. The old carol, What Child Is This, touches this point. What will be, what can be? Again, we will explore that idea a bit tomorrow morning.
Another thing a baby brings is a sense of responsibility. When my kids were born, I suddenly realized that it was my job, my obligation, to provide for this child the very best I could. I muddled through, trying to find the best path. Often I relied on the journey I watched my parents take with me. Other times it was friend, God’s Word, or just blind groping in the dark. And I confess that when my daughter got ill in the 8th grade and struggled to stay alive and honestly still struggles to this day with all we endured I feel bad. I, we, did not fail and my daughter is quick to remind me of that fact. Still, my heart hurts for her and the challenges she faces. The ‘If only’s . . .’ invade my thoughts too often. I was the responsible party after all.
Babies also bring a sense of wonder into our lives. I looked last week at a little boy we (well, his parents) named Jonathan. Such little finger, tiny feet, delicate neck and back. Yet, he is a whole human being. Babies help remove some of the doubts that creep in about God. Goo, lightening, luck and millions of years cannot, in my mind, culminate in a baby. He or she makes noises which will become speech, hears sounds that will one day make sense to him, she will learn to walk, run, jump, throw a ball, ski down a mountain, or jump from a plane. On the first Christmas night Luke says that Mary pondered all this in her heart and the shepherds came away in awe and wonder. Whenever I hand a baby back to its parental unit I have the same wonder and amazement.
Finally, babies bring joy into our lives. I know there are exceptions. I am aware that this is a fallen world where terrible things happen to babies and/or their families. Sinful parents don’t care for all babies. But setting all that aside, a baby brings joy, happiness and smiles. Most people love to look at babies. “Let me see, him.” We love to look at them. We coo and smile, stick out our tongues, mimic their sounds and hold them tight. We smile at one another when a baby is present. We congratulate parents and grandparents on the birth. [As a grandparent, I really didn’t have any direct involvement is this birth but I get congrats anyway and am honored to do so.] The angels mentioned joy to the shepherds that first Christmas.
So tonight we gather, family and friend. Church family and wandering pilgrims. We gather to celebrate and honor a baby. That first day he didn’t do much, other than be born, eat, sleep, poop his diaper, and cry (sorry fans of Away in the Manger, he probably cried. That’s what babies do.)
We are filled this night with joy, amazement, and love. Because of the child born this night we have a new responsibility, to and for our world and our families. One day the baby will assume his rightful place. But for tonight he is a baby. One that we worship and honor. Christ the savior has been born.