Oh Baby!

16 Dec

Babies have a way of finding crannies of love that we hide from others.  The alcoves of our souls hide things that only God, Himself, knows of and can pinpoint.  Yet, there are those little ones who open us wide to the world–even if guarded, as such.  Think about it.  One baby in a room of adults reduces most of us to mere functional illiterates by choice.  We become entranced by the bald-headed, toothless squirmers.   

I remember talking to my own children.  “You wan Dada to bwring your baba or bankie?”  I won’t go into all the baby-talk, or nicknames my wife and I had for our children.  Some of them are hilarious, that is for sure. If you are like we are, you might still find the urge to pop one of them from time-to-time, just for the sake of reaction. 

There aren’t too many of us that are able to hold back baby-talk when face-to-face with a little life in our presence.  We sing to our babies in the womb.  We talk to them, and we pray for them.  W teach them nursery rhymes, tell them stories of our childhood (maybe just a bit embellished), and instruct them in praying before bedtime.  Remember those fun days, before they sat on the sides of their beds and cried for no reasons at all, or got quiet when held accountable?  Recall the moments when we asked them “What’s wrong,” only to hear in return, “Nothin”?  I surely remember them!  In fact, there are times I’d like to sit on the side of my own bed and cry a little for myself, these days.  It is sometimes a good thing to feel sorry for ourselves, as adults, at least for fifteen minutes, before someone asks for money, or the cell phone rings. 

Why do babies bring out the best in us?  A giggle, two tiny dimples, a gummy smile, flailing hands and stumpy toes, their splashing arms and legs during baths–capped off by their pudgy, wrinkly feet, capping off the ends of their soft and supple smallness.  All of this serves to remind us of life’s simplicities and basic human needs.  Babies also remind us of the necessity of the protection they need.  The trust they place in adults is astounding.  But they learn quickly.  Once they figure out that we are not really perfect, all things begin to change.  If you are like me you are torn by those early years, sometimes longing for them again—but happy also not to have to repeat those long nights, illnesses, and the like.  Why can’t they stay little forever.  Have you ever wanted that?  Nah!  There are grandchildren for those reasons.  Right?

Babies are signals of life.  They are reminders that the future is the present.  They comprise the past through one’s DNA and heritage.  They consume the present and they portend the future.  Babies are the miracles that are united from one sperm and one egg–gestating over time–to become the “other” us.  With each birth of our children we are reminded that “WE” are with us.  We are connected and that’s that.

Here in this sophisticated new millennium we tend the place things which has the sense of the miraculous, such as child birth, in the realm of the ordinary.  Each conception brings into existence an absolutely unique entity, a person of the most distinct, individual “being.”  We are all unique and the mold is broken with each one of us.  However, we have this little nature thing, with which to contend.  Therein lies the problem!

Imagine for a moment that your teenage daughter came home one day and told you that she was impressed in her spirit about something incredibly unique.  What if she told you that an angel of God had told her that she was specially favored among all other young teenagers of the day?  Assume, then, that sometime later she informed you that she was pregnant, yet maintained that she was still a virgin–untouched by any man sexually.  To make matters more concerning, imagine your single, teenage daughter had been engaged to a man more than twice her age–and that the engagement was going to be broken by the man, once he discovered your daughter was pregnant.  I know, I know . . . I see your faces now.  Yet, I do think you know where I am going with this.  The philosopher Paul C. Vitz asks us to “Consider that Mary was pregnant with Jesus today.”  I also ask us to do the same.

What are the chances that the parents of this pregnant teenage girl would have shuffled her off to the local Planned Parenthood clinic?  What would her friends and contemporaries say?  Speaking as one who was conceived prior to marriage, I kind of identify with that last statement, in terms of its implications.  Know that I mean?  No, I am not claiming divinity, personally—but divinity as a delicacy–that stuff it freakin’ awesome!

The prophet Isaiah (ca 800 BC) stated:  “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)  A miracle baby son, a virgin, and the name translated to mean “God with us” (Immanuel)  Hmmmm.  Most interesting.

The disciple Matthew Levi (1st century AD), the tax gatherer wrote:  “And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly.  But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’  Now all this took place that which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet shall be fulfilled . . .” (Matthew 1:19-24)

The Christmas holiday (derived from “holy-day”) is about the advent of Jesus, the baby, and the beginning of His earthly pilgrimage.  The birth occurred more than likely during the summer months and there was no snow.  That reminds me, what happens in Australia during December in the Northern Hemisphere?  I hope Santa’s varicosities aren’t too apparent with those pasty legs of his in those shorts.

John 1 speaks also to this event “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1; 1, 14).

This baby Jesus is the gift that keeps on reminding us of our flesh and mortality.  The baby reminds us of our beginning and the blessings we are to others.  But why do we keep Him in a manger?  Why is Christmas about jesus as a baby only? 

Is it because there is no room in the “inn of our hearts?”  Babies are no threat.  Babies do not challenge the way we live.  Babies are the miracle gifts in-and-of-themselves.  But babies do grow up into young adults and then enter adulthood.  Apparently King Herod had serious fears of the baby Jesus, for he had all male children slaughtered, age-two and under.  This infanticide occurred in Bethlehem and its surrounding environs (Matthew 2:16).  Herod feared all of this talk about the birth of a king, a messiah, would diminish his sovereignty over the land.  So the child Jesus and His parents went to Egypt until King Herod had died.  Afterwards, they returned to their homeland.

One interesting piece of trivia from the Hebrew language is quite telling.  The name “Beth-lehem,” actually means “House of Bread.”  Later Jesus was given the title “Bread of life,” and communion would be taken at “the Last Supper,” to symbolize His crucified and broken body.  Part of the communion remembrance today using crackers or bread illustrates the “broken bread” of life.  Who would have ever thought that the bread of life would have been born in a house of bread?  All of this is derived from the Christmas story?  Yes indeed! 

Another point of interest was that when the wise men came to visit Jesus, He was already a toddler.  The Magi were the ones who tipped off Herod, and this was the reason for the age-2 on down slaughter of the innocents.  So, we celebrate the baby Jesus, but we really should be celebrating the toddler, at least in my mind.  But no toddler I know would stay in a crib.  As far as my kids were concerned, they kept jumping out, or falling on their heads.  That might explain a few things.  Now my father’s statements to me in my youth ring clear.  He used to ask, “What is the matter with you?  Did you play too many football games without a helmet?”  I never figured out “how many” was too many. 

Some 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, his infancy still impacts the world.  While some wanted to make Him an Excellency, believers see Him as their Sufficiency, beginning with infancy.  The commemoration of Jesus’ birth is the real reason we celebrate by giving “gifts” to each other.  He was the ultimate gift to the world.  The reason for the season is ultimately for His pleasin’.

A second gift was given to us by the resurrected Jesus, just prior to His ascension.  Luke, the physician, records in Acts 1:3:  “. . . He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things to come . . . He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised . . .”

Jesus told His followers: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:15-16).  The Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving. 

During this festive season of holidays, may we Christians celebrate like never before.  May we live and love like never before.  The baby has grown, lived, and He has changed the world.  He died, resurrected, and ascended.  Don’t you think it is time to be Christ-like in ways that show we’ve left our own “Christian cribs” (apologies to the hip-hop community)?  On Christmas, are we going to ask our families to pass the milk or pass the meat?

I dare say when we celebrate our own birthdays we do not present each other with kind notions of the time we spent in the crib.  We celebrate our birthdays as we are now.  I also know a little about this, having a birthday in the same month as the Christmas holiday.

Dear believer, let us celebrate the holiday as He is NOW in our lives.  May we look back to the past, while living in the present–knowing that we have a future with Him.   May our baby-talk grow into a mature contagious conversation, coupled with a powerful Christian walk.  May this walk evidence movement in the right direction, joined by the fruit of the Spirit.  No, I did not say fruitcake.  Unlike divinity, THAT stuff is so nasty, and is the evil twin of the yule log.

Thank you for reading!

OK, where’s my egg-nog? 

Feliz Navidad!

Rozhdyestvom Christovom

Buon Natale

Merry Christmas

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