A Baby Born for You ©

I readily and honestly confess I am into babies right now. After an important meeting at the Conference Center this week, I stood around with other grandfathers swamping pictures.  Monday night, December 21st, we shall fly to Washington D.C. to spend Christmas with our daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter (2 &1/2 yr. old “Amazing” Grace).  While there I will hold for the first time our 1 month old grandson Sam (a.k.a. “Yosemite”).  Then on the 26th, we will fly to Boston where our five month old grandson son Simon (a.k.a. “Super” Simon) will be baptized on the 27th of December. Even as baby bonked as I am, I know that the real baby of focus is one named Jesus. Do you remember the oft told story of a “little boy who was given a part in the church Christmas program? It wasn’t much of a part, just one line.  He was to say the angelic announcement:  ‘Behold, I bring you good news of great joy.’  Mom, Dad, everyone in the family helped him learn his line.  He went over and over it till he had it down pat.  The night of the program came; the crowd filled the sanctuary.  It came time for his one line and facing that mass of people he just froze in fear.  Silence descended as everyone waited for him to speak.  Finally, he raised his arms and in a loud voice said, ‘Boy, do I have good news for you!’” It is a baby and he is born for you! His name is Jesus.  “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). On one level this good news can become too easily a part of our vocabulary and life. The ancients understood a truth we in our niceties seek to avoid.  If all of us in some way or shape have departed from life with God, sinned is the biblical term, then what we justly merit is damnation.  The job failure…it’s just what you deserve; the broken relationship…hey, that’s your problem; the shattered dream…tough luck; the crippling illness…those are the breaks.  Terrorism … what do you expect, sin can be international too.  But such is not the case where God’s good news is heard! This good news which splits fear asunder is the reason for the season, the birth of a baby who in fact is God with us and for us. The Bible puts it this way: “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). On another level this is too incredible to be really believed. Some called it a stumbling block and others sheer foolishness (I Corinthians 1:23).  The sign of a new relationship with God which might rescue us from a field of fear is a homeless baby laid in a cow’s feeding trough?! All this is at God’s initiative. We don’t will God into coming.  We don’t beg, borrow or steal the Lord’s appearing.  We certainly don’t earn God’s favor.  Yet God comes to us in what is least to be feared - a baby.  What is more helpless than a baby?  What is more in need of love and care than a baby?  What more needs protection and support than a baby?  Yet this is how God enters the world.  All this is good news of great joy! The great joy of His birth is not a pause in the march of days. It is not a temporary state of caroling good will.  It is a change of relationship.  It is good news of great joy because from hence forth our relationship with God is one of love and not fear, of compassion and not judgment.  We experience great joy because our sins are forgiven by this one whose birth we celebrate.  “To you is born a Savior” (Luke 2:11). By way of illustration, Dr. James Harnish writes: “Beauty and the Beast is a classic tale of radical transformation.  It’s the story of an angry beast whose only hope of being transformed into a genuine human being is to be loved in his unlovable condition by a beautiful woman.  At first, Beauty is frightened by the Beast’s large stature, his meanness, his power.  But over time, the unearned love of Beauty transforms the Beast into a man” (James Harnish, Come Home for Christmas: An Advent Study for Adults, p. 34). That transformation process is launched this night by none other than God. It is a renewal of life that is offered to the shepherds terrified in the field.  It is the same new life offered to us in our fields of fear.  Do you remember that line from Robert Frost’s poem “The Death of a Hire Man” in which a person named Warren says, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” This is the great joy we are offered this night; but with one twist, one great reversal.  We don’t have to go to God. God in Christ comes to us.  This is what is meant by salvation.  All the talk of saving has to do with the restoration of a relationship with God; who in divine beauty comes to us as a baby to woo us and love us.  “The angelic chorus anticipates the jubilation which rings throughout the gospel and especially the joy in heaven which Jesus declares to ensue upon rescuing the lost sheep” (G. B. Caird, Saint Luke, p. 61). Jesus put it this way.  “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). One of the great early Christian leaders, a man named Ambrose, put it this way: “He was a baby and a child, so that you may be a perfect human.  He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you may be freed from the snares of death.  He was in a manger, so that you may be in the altar.  He was on earth that you may be in the stars.  He had no other place in the inn, so that you may have many mansions in the heavens.  ‘He, being rich, became poor for your sakes, that through his poverty you might be rich.’ … “You see that he is in swaddling clothes. You do not see that he is in heaven.  You hear the cries of an infant, but you do not hear the lowing of an ox recognizing its Master, for the ox knows his Owner and the donkey his Master’s crib.”  (Ambrose, from Arthur A. Just Jr., Editor, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament III—Luke, p. 38 [internal quotes, references, 2 Cor 8:9]). Behold the baby. In Him lies the birth of eternity as earth and heaven touch this night.  Come, enter a Bethlehem stable and lean over the manger.  “It’s a boy!”  And He is for you. nativity_stained glass