Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Day Sermon

… It was just before Christmas, a few years ago when I was the on-call chaplain at Prince William hospital. I was sitting at my desk late one afternoon and got a call from the neo-natal unit. A young couple had just had a baby and it was a difficult birth. They asked for a chaplain.
            I sighed, and got the details. Hospital chaplain calls are never good news and I thought how hard this one would be – a newborn facing death after only a couple hours of life. I hurried into town.
            The unit was all decorated for Christmas but very quiet. At first I couldn’t find a nurse or an aid. I finally found someone who said the mom who had called for me, was in her room.
            I paused outside the room for a prayer, knocked and went in. After introducing myself, I asked about her child.
She told me about the difficult birth and
   how the infant had struggled for life.
      She shared all the details of what had happened,
         each scary step of his fragile life.
I could tell she needed to tell the story again.
Her husband returned to the room as we talked, and then the nurse called and said we could see the baby.

****    As we put on gowns and gloves, I gently asked what the baby’s prognosis was. The nurse said, “He will be fine. He’s on monitors now and we are watching him carefully, but he is already showing signs of strength.” 

            I was surprised and happily so. I looked to the parents and they said, “We just wanted you to come and bless our baby. He’s been thru so much.” *****

            I was overjoyed to be asked to share their ‘good news’.
We went and looked at this TINY little boy, hooked to so many wires but breathing strong. Mom leaned over the basinet to touch him and the nurse said, you can hold him now.

            Wow, it had been such a hard birth, neither mom nor dad had yet held their baby. I watched as mom sat in a chair and the nurse carefully brought her son to her, draping the wires carefully to his side.
            Dad knelt down next to the chair. Mom’s eyes never left her son. She stared down at him in complete wonder. He was her little miracle, finally cuddled in her arms.
As she held him, he looked up and his eyes met hers.
            There they were, mom’s eyes locked on the son, baby’s eyes staring up at his mother. No words were needed to express the holiness of that moment. . . .full of wonder. . .

There in that precious time, the hospital equipment & wires were unnoticed. The only reality present was this new life full of potential, resting in mom arms.
Dad & Mom had only gratitude, as they looked down on their child and knew he was a gift from God. pause

In the Jewish ceremony of child blessing, the family is reminded that every child IS a gift and is given a holy gift.
The prophet Elijah said every child has the potential to be a messiah because within every child is a spark that can repair the world.

Christians recognize Jesus as the messiah. He is the one who brought together the 2 spheres of God's presence of which John's gospel speaks;
-the entire created universe and
-the life of one human, the baby boy of Christmas.
In Jesus, the eternal and cosmic realm of God joins the temporal world in which we live.[i]

John's gospel is at the heart of Christian theology, which seeks to understand both the human and the divine in Jesus.

----- But perhaps our playful mood this morning is not the time for heavy theology, even important theology.

Altho the great theologian Calvin imagines God was speaking "baby-talk" to us in the incarnation - as the only way we simple humans could come to know the unknowable One."[ii]

If he is right, then today we give thanks for God's baby-talk and the specific moment when Mary & Joseph looked into the eyes of their child and recalled Elijah's words with a grand sense of wonder. " Would their child be the savior of his people?" . . .

We each had a similar moment (that we don’t remember), when someone; our mother, father, grandparent, or caregiver looked down on us and wondered what we'd become.

When each baby is born, human eyes glimpse divine potential as parents’ eyes meet baby's eyes and we wonder again how it is that God gives life.
We wonder what God desires for the spark of divine hosted in this child? . . .
- What purpose did God have in mind the day you were born?
- - Where is God still working to bring to light your gift of divine potential?

God gives each of us the ability to be the reconcilers of our people and works with us to accomplish this ‘good news’ in the world, -every day, -every year, -in every life.

When a baby is blessed, his or her loved ones gather around, gaze into innocent eyes and say,

“At this moment, we do not know who you will become but we place you in God’s hands, praying that you will engage in acts of reconciliation through words and deeds that are unique to you.” It is our blessing and our hope for them.

Jesus is our hope because he lived his complete potential; he was ‘fully aligned’ with God & creation. . . And his purpose was to open our eyes to see what God has given us.

We each have the ability to live a life fully aligned with God, - when we recognize the spark of Christ that lives within us.

John’s beautiful version of Jesus’ birth story is a “witness spoken by those whose own experience has been shaped by [God’s action in Jesus]. John’s [good news] is not theological speculation…but the testimony of those whose lives have been changed by the incarnation.[iii]
When we are touched by the moment of incarnation,
When we gaze up into our creator’s eyes, we know we too can live into all the hope that God has for US.
We can live in union with Jesus and in this way become the reconcilers & saviors of OUR people.
May God greatly bless us this Christmas and help us to ‘make it so’.

[i] Gail R. O’Day New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary Vol. IX (Nashville:Abingdon, 1995) 518
[ii] Paraphrased, Cynthia l. Rigby Feasting On The Word- theological (Louisville: WJK, 2008) 144
[iii] O’Day p. 526

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