Christmas Birthday: Letter to My Son, Born on Christmas Day

Christmas Birthday: Letter to My Son, Born on Christmas Day December 23, 2017

Christmas Birthday: Letter to My Son, Born on Christmas Day

My son was born on Dec. 25, 2006.  At the time, I was a pastor, so it was particularly significant that I gave birth to him on the same day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. A year after he was born, I preached this sermon on his first birthday at our church’s Christmas morning service.  Now, he is turning eleven, and I will share this with him – the imagined letter from Mary to Jesus, and my letter to him, another mother to her son.

Christmas baby

I have always loved the phrase from Luke which says that after the shepherds departed the stable, Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.”  I imagined what it would be like if Mary would have shared her ponderings with her son, on the day of his first birthday.  So let’s pretend, just for a moment, that Mary wrote her son a letter.  What might she say?

My dearest son, Yeshua:

It has been one of the most memorable years of my life since you have been born, not the least of which was fleeing with you and your father to Egypt to escape King Herod.  You are not yet old enough to read these words, and it will be many years until you can take them into yourself.  But I wanted to take a moment to share with you all the things I have been pondering in my heart this last year.

The night before you were born we made our lodging in a stable off of an inn.

You may be embarrassed to know you were born among common farm animals.  But at that time with all the available rooms being taken while the census was happening, we were happy just for a warm place to lie down.  We ate a hearty meal that night of bread and lamb.  Your father made sure I ate some meat, knowing I would need lots of strength for giving birth.

My contractions began not long after we finished our meal.

And they lasted for hours!  But I had a very strange, wondrous experience while I was in labor.  At one point, I took a walk out into the yard to get some fresh air.  As I looked over the hills in the distance, I thought I saw a glowing light – as if the sky on the horizon was lit up by the sun, yet it was the middle of the night.  And then I was certain I heard singing – a most sweet and melodious chorus, as if angels had descended upon the earth.  I called for your father, who had fallen asleep.  But by the time he came out, the light had faded and the singing had ceased.  We both decided it was just a figment of my imagination while in my laboring condition.

A midwife came the next morning, and the contractions were much stronger.

I could only say snatches of my morning prayers because I was so focused on breathing.  I prayed that you would come quickly, for I had labored long and my strength was waning.  And God answered my prayer.  After a few hard pushes, out you came with your beautiful dark hair and bright shining eyes.  The midwife laid you in my arms and you nursed almost immediately.  Then she washed you off and brought your father in to see you.  We marveled at your tiny fingers and toes – each one formed so perfectly, down to the tiniest fingernail.  Then we all dozed off to sleep.

Andrea Mantegna Maria mit dem schlafenden Kind Madonna with Sleeping Child, 1465 in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Public domain.
Andrea Mantegna Maria mit dem schlafenden Kind Madonna with Sleeping Child, 1465 in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. Public domain.

A few hours later, I heard a commotion outside.

Your father said that shepherds had come to see our new baby.  This was perplexing to me.  How had they known about you?  Had they come to do you harm?  But a little voice in my heart told me to welcome them.  There were five of them, and they were as rough-looking and smelling as you’d expect shepherds to be.  But there was a glow on their faces that made them just radiate with joy in seeing you.

The oldest of them told me that angels had come to them during the night and told them that you had been born, even told them the inn where we were staying.  They said that the angels had said you were the Messiah, the one sent to save our people.  I asked them if the angels had sung to them, and they said that, indeed, it was the most beautiful music they had ever heard.  So I was not delirious after all!

I saw the midwife and your father exchange glances.  They didn’t know what to think about all this.

But as I said, I’ve been pondering all this in my heart for a long time.

There is much more I want to tell you about your first year on this earth – our encounter with Simeon and Anna at your presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem; the visit of the magi from foreign lands; the sad story of how we came to be here in Egypt.  But that will be another letter.  For now, let me tell you what I pray for you.

I pray that you will be a man of honor and integrity.

I pray that you will be respectful of women, and gentle with children.  I do not necessarily pray that you will follow in your father’s footsteps and become a carpenter, though you may.  But I do pray that whatever path you follow in life, you will always be attentive to what our God is leading you to do.  I do not know if you are, indeed, the Messiah, though my heart becomes full when I think of the possibilities.  Perhaps you will lead a revolution and return this land to our people.  Or maybe you are destined to something even greater than this.

But I know that with such high expectations can come great responsibility, even great pain.

I do not know how you will bear such burdens, and a mother worries.  I worry that you may be called to great battles that will harm your body and test your soul.  I shudder to think of any of your precious blood being spilled as I watch you play so innocently in our home.  Nevertheless, I am sure our God will provide for you, because I know you are His child in a very mysterious, yet undeniable way.

Know this, my son.  My love will accompany you no matter where your path leads.

I will rejoice in your happiness.  I will weep when you are anguished.  I will keep watch over you, even if all I can do is behold you with my eyes from a distance.

With all my love,

Your mother


My dearest son, Benjamin:

I want to tell you about the day you were born, for it was a very special day.  You are not yet old enough to read these words, and it will be many years until you can take them into yourself.  But I wanted to take a moment to share with you all the things I have been pondering in my heart this last year.

Photo: Leah D. Schade. All rights reserved.
Photo: Leah D. Schade. All rights reserved.

The night before you were born – we sat in a diner, your father, your sister, and me.

I had a hearty meal, because your father wanted to make sure I ate well, just in case I would go into labor that night.  It was Christmas Eve, and I would normally have been leading services at our church.  But this night I sat looking out the diner window at a church across the street.  I saw a soft glow coming from inside the sanctuary, and I knew they were singing beautiful carols.  It was the first time I had ever missed a Christmas Eve service, and I was at once wistfully missing the experience, yet grateful for quiet time with your daddy and Rachel.

The next morning, though, we did go to church.  And an amazing thing happened.

During the prayers, Pastor Smoose was voicing a prayer that you might soon come into the world (because I was already 5 days overdue). And I started having a contraction!  Now I had been having contractions off and on for two weeks, always getting excited, but then disappointed when they faded.  So I didn’t want to get my hopes too high.  But after we got home and Rachel unwrapped her presents, the contractions continued, so we went to the Birth Center where we met the midwife.

I labored for several hours, and then your Nana and Pop Pop brought your sister to the Birth Center as well.  Rachel was our cheerleader, and her energy helped me to focus on bringing you into the world. I concentrated on my breathing.

I prayed that you would come quickly.

Because I had labored long and hard with your sister three and a half years ago, so I hoped that this time would not be so difficult.  And God answered my prayer.  After a few hard pushes, out you came with your beautiful dark hair and bright shining eyes.

The midwife laid you in my arms and you nursed almost immediately.

Then she washed you off and brought your grandparents in to see you.  We marveled at your tiny fingers and toes – each one formed so perfectly, down to the tiniest fingernail.  Then we all dozed off to sleep.

There is much more I want to tell you about your first year on this earth – the first time you laughed, your first steps, your first words.  But that will be another letter.  For now, let me tell you what I pray for you.

I pray that you will be a man of honor and integrity.

I pray that you will be respectful of women, and gentle with children.  I do not necessarily pray that you will follow in your father’s footsteps and become a drummer, though you may.  But I do pray that whatever path you follow in life, you will always be attentive to what our God is leading you to do.

I do not know what burdens you may be called to shoulder, and a mother worries.

I worry that you may be called to great battles that will harm your body and test your soul.  I shudder to think of any of your precious blood being spilled as I watch you play so innocently in our home.  Nevertheless, I know our God will provide for you, for you are God’s child through your baptism.

Know this, my son.  My love will accompany you no matter where your path leads.

I will rejoice in your happiness.  I will weep when you are anguished.  I will keep watch over you, even if all I can do is behold you with my eyes from a distance.

Ben, age 11
Ben, age 11

And one more thing I pray for you, Benjamin.  I pray that you come to know the One whose birthday you share today.

I pray that you will learn about Jesus, whose nativity we celebrate this morning.  I pray that you will draw strength from him, be called to serve others in this world through him, and take comfort in knowing his sacrificial love for you.

With all my love,

Your mother


Leah, Jim, Rachel, Ben 2007

Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church (ELCA).

Twitter: @LeahSchade

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeahDSchade/.

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