So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
Babies … all this talk about a baby. We love our babies at Christmastime, don’t we? Away in a Manger … The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy … Infant Holy, Infant Lowly … What Child is This? We can’t get enough of them. Tiny hands that resemble porcelain images of our own. Eyes and noses and mouths that mimic what we look at in the mirror each morning, and which assure us that our blood lines will continue. Living, breathing and growing descendants that point to the newness of creation all around us. Some of you here have babies in your families … children, and grand-children, and great-grand-children … you know exactly what I am talking about. They steer our vessel of hope for the future … the send chills down our spine when they are in danger … they bring tears of wonder to our eyes.
Babies … all this talk about a baby. Why? … they are nothing but trouble. Pooping in their diapers at the worst possible times … spitting up on you as you are walking out the door to church or a dinner date … peeing on you when you are changing their diapers. Miniature sirens that fire themselves up to their loudest level just when you are the most tired. Disrupting lifestyles and schedules with their arrival into the world … changing the entire schedule and rhythm of family life the moment they first arrive home from the hospital. Interested in nothing beyond their own interests … the epitome of sinful self-indulgence … feed me … change me … hold me … play with me … rock me … pay attention to me … me, me, me, me me …. The amass countless hours of frustration … mountains of health care bills … buckets of pain … and years of anxiety.
Babies … all this talk about a baby. But somehow they capture our sense of hope for the future. In church everybody loves to say “babies and children are the future of the church.” When in reality they are the church right now the moment they arrive. We tend to be a bit idealistic and optimistic about them Even when they work fairly hard to make our lives miserable.
Babies … all this talk about a baby. They are often little more than noisy distractions. Entering the house of God and throwing tantrums … screaming during the sermon … crying during the prayers … tossing their toys at the people in front of them. What’s the best thing about the late service on Christmas Eve at church? … NO BABIES!“Sleep in heavenly peace” … my foot. If you were here in these pews a few hours ago at our 3PM or 5PM family services, the you saw for yourself that “sleep” and “heavenly peace” were the last thing that was present in this sanctuary. It was utter chaos … because of the noisy, unruly, unpredictable little monsters that were present.
Babies … all this talk about a baby. Why? … with the myriad of predictable ways that babies can catch and draw our attention to them … what drew everyone’s attention to this particular little child? We read about a star … we are told about the proclamation of the angels. But were there not other stars and other angels in those days? Why this baby? Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night … wise men coming from the east … the word being spread throughout the world from a small hick town called Bethlehem. Christ the savior is born … Immanuel, God with us.
Babies … all this talk about a baby. Simeon and Anna knew … they saw Jesus as the salvation of Israel when he crossed their paths just eight days into his life. He was the one for whom their hopes and expectations had prepared them. Simeon and Anna were right, of course. This is the baby that we wait for, too. Because we are vulnerable and human … and we yearn for the future that this baby promised would usher into the world through his birth. Whatever our age … whether we are old or young. Whatever our health … whether we are weak or strong. Whatever our place in life … whether we are rich or poor. We come to the baby in the only way he know … as vulnerable human beings hoping that the future Jesus promises us is the future this world needs.
Babies … all this talk about a baby. Yes, it is always all about the baby, isn’t it? But not just any baby … one baby … one very special baby … the baby who brings hope to the world that peace and healing is possible. We meet this baby in our liturgy and our prayers … in our hymns and lessons. We meet this baby in a meal of bread and wine, become his Body and Blood. We meet this baby when we share a common history within these walls … with people we have known for generations, and people we have just met. We will eventually face this baby on the cross of Golgotha. We meet this baby today and claim him as our own … because he has first claimed us as his own. His family … his children … his babies. Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay … close by me forever and love me, I pray … Bless all the dear children in your tender care … and fit us for heaven, to live with you there. Amen.