Sermon: And a Child Shall Lead Them (December 23, 2012)

So, you’re the Creator-of-all-that-is and things are going okay, but not exactly how you’d planned them.  You created in love hoping your creatures would continue living out that love.  Some did…but a lot didn’t.  Something was missing.  There was a depth to love that hadn’t yet been achieved by your creations….so you decide to go down and shake things up a bit, to show them the way, to draw forth from them the love you always hoped they’d show.

As creator-of-all-that-is, how will you choose to come?  Will you come as a political leader?  A prophet?  A preacher?  A teacher?

All of those options seem good, don’t they?  But our creator?  Our creator chose to come as a baby.  I wonder why?    (Scripture readings.)

Why did God choose to come dwell among us in the form of a baby?  Perhaps it’s because there is nothing on earth that will lead people to change for the better more quickly than a baby.  I’m not a parent myself, but I’ve heard lots of parents talk about how everything changed the minute they learned they were going to have a baby.  And watching those parents raise their children?  Sometimes the parents seem to grow as much as their offspring.

Take the young woman Mary.  Unmarried, young—she learns she’s pregnant.  Her first response is consternation:  “How can this be?”  Her second response is fear.  Her third response:  acceptance.  “Let it be with me according to God’s will.”  Her fourth response:  She seeks help from her cousin Elizabeth.  Pregnancy isn’t something to do alone!  Her fifth response:  She sings a song of gratitude—and hope, hope that—because of her child—the world will become a better place.

In the few weeks between finding out she’s pregnant and her visit with Elizabeth, Mary grows from being just another young woman to gaining a sense that how she parents the child growing inside her could make a difference, a big difference to the world.

Hebrew school wouldn’t have done that.  Becoming ruler of Judea wouldn’t have done that.  Preaching to the masses wouldn’t have done it.  The thing that helped Mary mature from just-a-person to one who nurtured the love of God in the world was….a baby.

Babies change us.  They bring out the good in us.  They give us hope.  They keep us focused on something outside ourselves.  They remind us of our need for community… somebody’s got to change all those diapers!  Babies help us grow up.

As we reflect on Mary’s maternity-induced maturity, I’d like to share three other stories that demonstrate just how much love babies and children call forth from us.

The first story is about a grandfather.  Author Nora Gallagher writes about a friend who invited her to lunch one day.  He “told me… [that] his high school-age daughter had gotten pregnant and insisted on having the baby.  She had, in fact, just had the little boy a few days before he and I had lunch.  My friend and his wife had tried very hard in the early days of her pregnancy to get her to give up the child for adoption, but the girl refused.  I sat there,” Gallagher writes, “listening to the story.  All kinds of words of advice rose in my head…

“When he had finished telling the story, I was about to wade in, when he picked up his wallet and pulled out a picture of an incredibly cute baby boy.  ‘Here he is,’ he said, and a huge smile spread all over his face.  ‘We’ve never had a boy in the family before.’

“I looked at the photo and I looked at his face,” says Gallagher.  “What came to me then felt as close to grace as I have ever felt.  We were sitting in a museum café, and I felt as if the room were slowed down to God speed.  All of the words of advice evaporated from my mind.  I don’t remember exactly what I said, but what I realized was– it’s all about love.  It’s about increasing our capacity to love.  It was as clear as a bell.  Whatever happened, my friend loved that baby, and it looked to me as though, if he kept loving that baby, his life would be better, and so would be that baby’s life, and the baby’s mother’s life and so forth and so on.” (Sacred Meal, 127-8)

“It’s all about love.  It’s about increasing our capacity to love.”  Author Bruce Feiler’s capacity to love increased when he was diagnosed with cancer.  With a seven inch tumor in his left femur, the initial prognosis wasn’t great.  Bruce’s immediate thoughts turned to his 3 year old twins, Tybee and Eden.  What would his girls do if he were to die?

His desire for his girls to grow up with a dad presence in their lives—a presence of him—led Bruce to create what he calls “the Council of Dads.”  He asked six friends to serve on the Council, each convenanting to nurture his girls in father-like ways should cancer claim Bruce’s life.  One person was a friend from early childhood.  His agent knows Bruce as a writer.  Another friend lost his own father when he was 3; he could help the girls when they missed their dad.  His college roommate would help the girls know about that part of their dad’s life.

In his letter to each of the men, Bruce asked:  “Will you help be their dad?  Will you listen in on them?  Will you answer their questions?  Will you take them out to lunch every now and then?  Will you go to a soccer game if you’re in town?  Will you watch their ballet moves for the umpteenth time?  When they get older, will you indulge them in a new pair of shoes?  Or buy them a new cell phone, or some other gadget I can’t even imagine right now?  Will you give them advice?  Will you be tough as I would be?  Will you help them out in a crisis?  And as time passes, will you invite them to a family gathering on occasion?  Will you introduce them to somebody who might help one of their dreams come true?  Will you tell them what I would be thinking?  Will you tell them how proud I would be?”

“Naturally, I hope that I will fully recover from my illness and that we will all be able to enjoy many family occasions together in the future.  But I would like my Council to continue no matter the outcome.  I would like my daughters to know the world through all of you.  I would like Tybee and Eden to know me though this group.  I would like them to know themselves through their Council of Dads.”  (The Council of Dads, ch.1) Isn’t that remarkable?  Out of love for his daughters, Bruce gathered his friends together into a community of caring.  His love for his children spilled over to those around him and will continue to do so well into the future.  His love for those babies did that.

But the baby Jesus came for everyone, not just for the parents and grandparents among us.  Do babies speak love to those of us who aren’t their parents or grandparents?

The third person I want to tell you about is a parent and  grandparent, but in this story, he acts simply as a kind neighbor.  Friday morning a week ago, Gene Rosen had just fed his cats and was leaving the house to drive to a local diner for breakfast.  As he opened the door, he noticed a small group of children “sitting in a neat semicircle at the end of his driveway.   A school bus driver was standing over them, telling them things would be all right.  It was about 9:30.  The children, he discovered, had just run from their school to escape a gunman.

“We can’t go back to school,” one little boy told Rosen. “Our teacher is dead, Mrs. Soto.  We don’t have a teacher.”  That’s when Rosen’s grandfatherly instincts kicked in.  The 69-year-old retired psychologist took the four girls and two boys into his home, and over the next few hours gave them toys, listened to their stories and called their frantic parents.”

Through the ordeal, the children clung to the stuffed animals, drank the juice offered by Rosen, and said what they could about what had happened to them.

Then “one little boy brought them all a moment of levity.   ‘This little boy turns around, composes himself, and,” Rosen reports, “he looks at me…and says, `Just saying, your house is very small,’” Rosen said.  “I wanted to tell him, `I love you. I love you.’”

So, you’re the creator of all that is and you want desperately for your creatures to live more fully into their loving potential.  You decide to go live among them show them the way.  How will you do that?

There’s only one way, isn’t there?  You’ll come as a baby.

In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness.  Amen.

Kimberleigh Buchanan  ©  2012


Luke 1:26-55

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.37For nothing will be impossible with God.”38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”


About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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