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Jesus in the Family: A Reflection for Un-Pageant Sunday

Rev. Dr. Karin Case
Sun, Dec 20

Anyone who’s ever welcomed a new baby knows that it’s a big deal!  Making space for a new family member takes effort. There are prenatal classes and visits to the midwife, or maybe adoption papers and social worker visits, and months of waiting. We acquire necessary supplies—a crib, a car seat, baby clothes. We paint a room, reorganize, make space.  We do our best to get ready.

We hope that books will equip us for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, so we read classics like What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Or, how about this best-selling title?   Dude, You’re Gonna Be a Dad!  How to Get (Both of You) Through the Next Nine Months.  Now that sounds like a book Joseph might have appreciated!  Or maybe it’s a book he could have written.  

I’m not sure it’s possible to be fully prepared for a new baby.  There’s so much mystery and miracle to it.  So much that’s unknown.  What will this new person be like?  How will they grow and develop?  What will this relationship ask of us?  Will we be up to all that love requires?

There’s no way to prepare in advance.  No parent of a new baby visualizes the ER visit with their three-year-old or the late night with an intoxicated 17-year-old. And it’s a good thing, too, because which of us would be brave enough to take on all of the joy and agony that comes with loving so completely?  There is no way you can imagine how this relationship will stretch you—the emotional maturity, flexibility, tenacity, sacrifice and resourcefulness that will be asked of you.  

Sometimes the outward preparations pale, compared to the inward work of love.

That work is about relationship and relationships are demanding!  First-time parents have so much to learn about what the baby needs—how to hold, feed, bathe, and dress.  Brave new world.  And older siblings have all kinds of new rules.  Touch gently.  Use a quiet voice—don’t wake the baby!  No poking.  No hitting.  Take turns.  Share.

The first day the baby comes home is a big deal.  But there’s also a point for older brothers and sisters when they realize the baby is not just visiting.  The little intruder is not going to be sent back to the hospital—or wherever babies come from!  He is here to stay.  

New parents have these moments, too, when they realize life will never be the same again. Moments when they think, “Oh, crap. Buying that jog stroller seemed like such a great idea, but if I don’t get some sleep, I think I’m going to kill someone.”  

Love asks so much of us.  We need to take it one day at a time, opening our hearts—quite simply—to the work of this day, alone.  If we try to take in the all of it, we will be overwhelmed by the enormity of what love requires.  Our sense of inadequacy rises and we quail.  Let us not be swept away by the magnitude of what love requires.  If we are present to its demands, we will know love’s joy.  

Today we tell the story of a baby’s birth.  It’s an age-old story and it is our story.  Jesus comes into the world—into our human family—and asks, quite simply, that we love.  

And that we keep on loving.  That we open ourselves again and again to love. Even when we are exhausted, discouraged, sad, or afraid.  Despite the risks of love.  In spite of the heartbreak it will surely bring.  Even when feel inadequate to the enormity of the world’s need.  Even in a time and place when violence and evil are so commonplace that small kindnesses seem insignificant.  Jesus asks us to love.  

The work of Advent preparation is to come with curiosity and anticipation; to suspend cynicism and despair; to trust that we will learn and grow; that in relationship, we will find the grace. And to simply be open to love.  

The good news of Christmas is that a child is born. Love comes to us, is conceived in us!  And love will have its way.  Thanks be to God!

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