In my opinion . . . if you are grappling with a biblical text week in and week out, trying to articulate some truth for a community of listeners, well, there’s no way to avoid talking about the details of your life. Some colleagues of mine maintain that all folks want to hear in sermons are literary references and historical allusions, but I learn things about God most of all in my day to day life. And since I have the microphone for twenty minutes once a week, well, anyone listening to me will hear about it.
This time of year I always think (though I try hard not to talk too excessively) about when my children were born. As the years creep by the memories are fading, but there’s something about a new life intersecting yours that turns everything upsidedown, that totally changes the way you look at the world.
And, to be perfectly honest, there are just some things you can never forget no matter how hard you try.
I am really THERE with Mary, you know what I mean? Maybe when all this angel stuff first happened she thought it might be a great idea to have a baby, but I always wonder if she held that screaming baby in her arms and thought to herself, “What have I done?”
If Mary was anything like me, she did just that.
The arrival of each one of my children completely rocked my world in every way imaginable. Not only was I completely exhausted for a total of about 7 years straight, but I suddenly found myself learning all sorts of things: which mothers to avoid on the playground (no refined sugar for the first five years? Whatever!), how to fit a double stroller through the checkout aisle at WalMart (not possible), what happens to a sippy cup that is stored under the car seat for six months (believe me, you don’t want to know) . . . .
And, in addition to all of those things, I also learned things like: I cannot control the world; the choices I make have powerful and lasting consequences; that new life is a mysterious and wonderful gift. And through the bleary, sleep deprived eyes of new parenthood, I had these overwhelming times when I could just look into the face of this tiny baby in front of me and know that the love I felt at that moment was bigger than anything I had ever felt before (aren’t they adorable? Humor me, please).
Every year around this time it occurs to me that God must have known all of those things when God decided to come on down to live among us–as a newborn baby.
I understand from my friends who are not parents that sometimes it gets a little tedious to hear friends (the pastor) go on an on about their kids, but this is one time out of the year that it seems appropriate. See, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve never been a parent; at Christmas all of us know what it’s like to have our lives completely changed by the coming of a baby.