12/24/2016: Peace

Luke 2:1-7

Tonight we remember the birth of a first-born son, the moment when the Son of God was born to Mary and Joseph; when he took his first startled breath in and pushed his first tiny cry out.

Birth is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed.  I’ve seen it twice – my daughter and my son.  I’d relive that moment over and over again if I could, a thousand times:  the heart-breaking beauty of a new life coming into the world.

Pregnancy and labor, though – that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Pregnancy does not feel beautiful.  It’s losing sleep and gaining weight.  It’s being desperately hungry and uncomfortably full.  It’s turning your confident strut into a humbling waddle.

And we haven’t even gotten to labor yet.

I think I’m a pretty tough woman.  I don’t mind a little pain for a little gain.  But I confess:  I crumbled like a soft sugar cookie at the arrival of real labor pains.

“How long will this last?” I asked the nurse, trying to sound cool and confident while desperately clutching the side bars of my hospital bed.

“Oh, we think the baby will be here in about 12 hours,” she said in an absurdly pleasant voice.

TWELVE HOURS?  That’s like some kind of torture!  But I never got anywhere near the 12 hour mark.  Right after the blessed epidural kicked in the doctor came and assessed the situation.

“We’ll need to do a C-section,” he explained, noting several reasons – my first-born’s positioning being primary among them.

Recalling the previous timeline of a leisurely “twelve hours,” I took what felt like an appropriate guess for when this might occur:  “Okay; like in a couple hours?”

“No, right now,” he said, and as though a team had been waiting outside my door, the room suddenly filled with people in masks and hairnets.  They handed Alan a set of scrubs – because he wouldn’t want to miss the chance to see his wife’s internal organs, right?  They moved me onto a table.  They strapped down my arms (this was probably the most disconcerting part).  As they rolled me into the OR, I kept repeating to myself, “This is normal; they do this all the time.  This is normal; they do this all the time.”

But it did NOT feel normal, and I was scared.

They pulled up a curtain so I couldn’t see my bottom half and started cutting.  It didn’t hurt but I could feel it and that freaked me out.  Doctors were talking, nurses were moving.  Alan looked at me from behind a mask.  Everything seemed crazy.  I was scared.  Whatever they were doing was making my chest feel overfull.  Panic was starting to kick in.  It was almost too much.

And then – and then – and then –

…a baby cried.

I couldn’t see her but Alan could.  His smile was so big, it showed even from behind his surgical mask.

“She’s so beautiful,” he said.

When a new life is born it has this way of stopping everything.  Fear becomes hope; pain becomes healing; chaos becomes peace.  And that’s just when a new life comes into the world.  Today we remember when The Life came into the world:  “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:4).

Having witnessed the births of two human beings, I can hardly imagine the beauty of the birth of the Son of God.  Tonight, in the quiet of a Christmas Eve candlelight service, we get a glimpse of that incredible beauty.

The world out there can be as chaotic, as painful, as fearful as a delivery room.  Yet in candlelit sanctuary there is a defiant sense of peace, and healing, and hope.  Jesus Christ brought those gifts into the world when he was born.  Jesus Christ left those gifts with us, entrusted to the Holy Spirit.  And Jesus Christ offers the peace and healing and hope of new life to us now – every day – through his strange invitation to be “born again.”

Tonight we remember the birth of Life itself.
Through him, may we be born again;
May peace and hope and healing break through into our worlds once more
And forever more.

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