Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Meditation for Christmas Eve - When God Shows Up with Needs

I have a vivid new parenting memory.

We had brought my newborn son, Brook – all 8 lbs, 2 oz of fussy, face-scratched, uptight baby-ness – home from the hospital.  We were tense, and as a result, so was he…and he’d arrived that way – two weeks late, on the heels of an April 30 snow storm in Minneapolis after what had been a long and shut-in winter.

I was an exhausted mom already.  Two days earlier after about 36 hours of labor, we’d finally had a baby.  Now I was very carefully situated among pillows and cushions on the couch and the nightly news was wrapping up and I am guessing that Jay Leno had begun his monologue on the Tonight Show.

…And my newborn son was WIDE AWAKE.  Looking around with still-unfocused eyes, kicking and squirming and probably fussing.  Not entirely content to be held. Not entirely content to lay in his cradle.  Not entirely content to be swaddled. Not entirely content to be nursed.

And it dawned on me.

I might never go to bed at a time of my choosing..

…ever again.

Not that night.

And not for the next 20 years or so at least.

This precious baby boy knew nothing but me and his dad.  Everything he’d need for years to come would come from us and others who loved him.

That’s the thing about babies.  They arrive with needs.  There is not one ounce of self-sufficiency in them at birth.

And they arrive with the ability to grab the attention of anyone within earshot.

At Christmas, we retell the story of a teenage mother and a shocked father trekking cross-country, arriving in a city they barely know, giving birth in a place fit for livestock, warm and dry, but hardly where one expects to bring new human life into the world.

They had already been told amazing things about what was to come.  They had been told of the power and the divinity and the holiness of this boy.

But on the other side the mess of labor and childbirth, there was a baby.  A tiny human who needed to be fed and clothed, bathed and changed, kept safe and warm.

He would have gas, he would have fevers, he would have tantrums.  Because that is how we are as humans.  Remember that this tiny messiah, while fully divine, was also fully human.

Regardless of what Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the shepherds, or the wise men thought about the arrival of a new king, a messiah, God’s son – what they got was a crying, squirming, hungry, pooping baby.

Who had needs.

So much of the time, we hear the word “savior,” and we imagine a super-hero who is going to destroy the bad things in life and usher in goodness and safety.  We want to claim a Jesus who saves us by taking away sin and death with single-handed strength and power.  Because God is almighty and all knowing and good.

On Christmas eve, what we receive is much different.

We get a tiny infant boy, swaddled and hungry.

Hungry for love. Hungry for nurture. Hungry for human touch.

And instead of a blanket pass to let the messiah do all the work, we get a new role – co-laborers in the vineyard.  Co-creators in the Kingdom of God.  Disciples.

Because while God is powerful and just, because while Jesus is fully human and fully divine, we have work to do to set the world aright, to usher in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is waiting for us in the streets where people have no homes.
Jesus is waiting for us amidst families broken by addition.
Jesus is waiting for us among refugees seeking safety.
Jesus is waiting for us where there is no clean water to drink.
…Waiting for us to nurture, attend, love.

The birth of hope that happens again and again at Christmas requires our participation and loving care. It requires our attention and our nurture. It requires that when one cannot shine their light, we shine it for them until they are able.

Christmas only happens when we play a part.
The Kingdom of God only draws near ONLY when we play a part.

Like Mary we are called to bear a mystery and nurture that mystery each day.
Like Joseph we are called to lean in with faith in the unknown and unbelievable.
Like the shepherds we are called to show up, to witness miracles, and to go back to our daily lives and work, trusting in the sure knowledge that something radical has changed.
Like the Kings we are called to seek and to tell, and sometimes to slip out by the back door, choosing justice and love over the established institutions of power.

My prayer for us, as the gathered who are looking tonight for the Savior who has entered in to save us all, is that we will hear how we are called to be part of the process. And respond. With Nuture and Love.  For the Savior has needs. Needs for us to live as if The Kingdom oh God depends upon our work.

Because it does.