Progressive Christian Channel
This One Child: Incarnation and the Power of Christmas
I have held many babies in my arms. My parents placed my sister Wanda in my arms when I was only twenty-one months old, but I remember the sense that they were giving me "my" baby. Brother Ron came next, when I was four. By the time Rodney and Roderick arrived, I was old enough to feed them, to bathe them, to soothe them when they cried, to make them laugh, to put them to sleep. They are ten and fourteen years younger than I am, and they are ... mine.
The children of my siblings belong to me, too. I touched the bellies of their moms in that tender way women will let you when you are close, and felt kicking feet and stretching arms. I fell in love with those children, each of them, upon meeting them. Snuggling them, smiling into their faces, seeing my parents' genes in their progeny.
Jourdan, my twenty-one-year-old niece, called me recently. "Twin," she said (because we look so much alike), "I was just about to be baptized in a church and they were pressuring me hard. I said, 'I was already baptized when I was a baby,' but they still wanted me to do it again. I told them, 'Well, I am not going to do it. If I need a second baptism, my personal pastor, my Aunt Jacqui, will do it for me.'"
This made me howl. I am her personal pastor—like a personal shopper or personal chef! How wonderful that Jourdan recalls that I held her in my arms, and touched her head with water in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I baptized her cousins, Rio and RJ, too.
What a joy to hold those little bodies, to cradle them close, to pass on to them the ancient tradition, to proclaim that they belong to God and to symbolize that in the splashing of water. Every time, every baby makes my heart leap. I hear in my heart Dianne Reeves singing "A Child Is Born": Now out of the night, New as the dawn, Into the light, Oh this child, Innocent child, Soft as a fawn, This child is born. One small heart, One pair of eyes, One work of art, Here in my arms, Here he lies, Trusting and warm, Blessed this bond, A child is born.
A few weeks ago, I held a baby boy in my arms while our little people looked on. He was so soft and beautiful. This was only our second meeting. As I took him from his mom, pulling him in close so I could touch the water to his gorgeous head, he relaxed his little body. He laid his head on my shoulder and just rested there, like we were old friends. We shared a trusting, warm, blessed bond that day. The congregation took a collective breath and sighed at the sight of this miracle.
Every baby is a miracle, their power to capture our hearts miraculous.
The power of Christmas is ultimately the Child. God comes all the way down to be among us, to live with us, as a Child. He needs to be held, rocked, bathed, comforted, nursed, cradled, and raised by loving adults. Imagine the vulnerability, the fragility, the neediness of this Child! Imagine the Child leaning in, nestling in, surrendering to the care of Mary and Joseph, helpless without them. His is baby flesh, wanting to be loved and needing to be loved.
The Incarnation is hard for some to digest. As for me, I am simply spellbound, I am stunned, and I believe this Child was born to heal the world. This Child started a work, brought a worldview, inaugurated an era in which old categories are tossed out the window. The very nature of the universe is altered because of this Child's life. We who hold him in our hearts, we who can feel him leaning in and surrendering to our care—we are responsible to him, for him, with him for this work of healing.
This one Child claimed the hearts of his parents, fueled the hopes of the wondering shepherds, and humbled the visiting Magi. I, too, am caught up; I too am captive. He holds my heart. It is miraculous.
Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis is Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City and Executive Director of The Middle Project. Lewis earned her M.Div. at Princeton Theological Seminary and her Ph.D. in Psychology and Religion at Drew University. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Lewis is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and preacher on the topics of racial, economic, and gender/LGBTI justice. Lewis has been adjunct faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary, The Graduate Theological Union, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and Wesley Theological Seminary. She has been interviewed on NPR's Weekend Edition, WABC, WNBC, CNN, Ebony.com, and Essence magazine, and The New York Times online. Author of The Power of Stories: A Guide for Leaders in Multi-Racial and Multi-Cultural Congregations and a children's book that celebrates diversity, You Are So Wonderful!, Lewis has published numerous articles, sermons, and blogs. She is married to her best friend, John Janka, with whom she works for racial reconciliation every day.