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Baby Jesus

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Luke 2:1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

This could be the story of anybaby: parents forced to travel by political necessity, caught by childbirth away from home, making do as best they could. Mary and Joseph might have had their baby in the back of a taxi, or on the floor of a crowded airport. A manger full of straw sounds luxurious compared to that.

Away from home on Christmas Eve only once, I remember the loneliness like a bitter taste under my tongue. I drove aimlessly around Charlotte, North Carolina for hours. The lights made my cry, the music made me cry, the laughter made me cry. A short phone call to my parents was the only respite, and I soaked myself in self-pity for two days.

Joseph might have been angry with himself for failing to provide better conditions for Mary's childbirth. Mary might have been disappointed that she couldn't have her Aunt Elizabeth with her for this wonderful moment. Were they hungry? Were they cold? They knew no one. And then the last straw ... there was no room in the inn.

So this baby Jesus, caught by Joseph and quickly wrapped to keep him warm, broke open his parents' hearts. They couldn't focus on their fear, or their hunger, or their cold. They heard this new baby cry for the first time, and Mary gave him milk for the first time, and he learned to suck and drink, and was quiet, and then slept again.

This baby Jesus made Mary and Joseph smile. They were less alone now, less alone forever, surrounded. Before me God, behind me God, above me God, below me God. All around me, God.

They remembered the words Gabriel spoke about their son even as they thought no one around them cared. No one knew what they knew. The three of them were together, no longer waiting for God's presence but basking in it.

What else can I ask for, Lord? The night is cold and lonely, but in this quiet you are right there with me. In your steady, sleepy breathing, as I touch your new baby skin face, I know only your peace.

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