What is it about a baby? Maybe it is the potential and hope a baby represents – as yet untarnished by the harshness and disillusionment of life they have not yet learned about hatred or rejection. We hope – maybe this baby will bring about a better future; perhaps this child will not make the same mistakes we made. Maybe it is peace – the peace that is found in the beauty and repose of a content and sleeping baby. What is it about a baby? Is it joy? The memory of the pain of childbirth diminished by the joy of new life. Do babies bring a bit of light from heaven along with them into this world? Is it love? Babies tug at our hearts, they invite our love in their total dependence upon us for care. Perhaps babies are a sign that God is not done making all things new.
“Call the Midwife” is a BBC drama series about life in the 1950’s in East End London, from the view of a close-knit group of midwives and nuns serving out of Nonnatus House. The series is based on the diary of midwife, Jenny Lee and her experiences among the poorest of the poor. It chronicles this special group of nurses and nuns who care for the women, babies, and others, who live there under the most challenging conditions. It is here that young nurse, Jenny Lee, fresh out of nursing school, learns about the tenacity and power of love to overcome even the most difficult circumstances. Amid some of the darkest most difficult moments of tragedy, she is witness to the power of love to save. “Love,” she writes “is the stuff of life.” In the third episode of the series, the midwives encounter a pregnant woman at the small clinic the nuns run, she is brought in by her overly attentive and doting husband. She is in her 40’s and seems apprehensive, upset even, about her pregnancy and the coming birth of her baby. Several weeks later, two of the midwives are in the home to attend the birth and they are concerned as the woman becomes ever more agitated, proclaiming, “I can’t have this baby.” The midwives reassure her – they are there to help her. As the labor progresses she becomes nearly hysterical with anxiety and finally she admits that, at a low point in her marriage, she had a one-night stand. Both she and her husband are white and she knows there is a good chance that baby will be black. Her husband will know immediately upon seeing the baby, that she cheated on him. She knows the result will most likely be that her extremely devoted husband will abandon her and the baby. Soon the baby is born and there is no doubt that this baby was not begat by her husband. The mother is tearful, afraid and resigned to what she knows will happen once he sees the baby. The midwife goes outside to retrieve the excited and anxious father (men not being allowed in the bedroom as the baby is delivered in that day). He rushes in laughing and smiling and suddenly stops, he looks at the baby for what seems like an eternity. Quietly, he asks, “Can I hold him?” The room itself seems to hold its breath as he takes the baby in his arms. The midwives glance nervously at one another. Finally, he says, “I don’t reckon I know much about babies, but I can see how this is the most beautiful baby there ever was.” And from that moment and forever, that baby is his son, his treasured beloved son. Love is powerful. It has the power to overcome the most difficult of circumstances. Love is transformative – if we allow it to be so.
Love entered our world that day so very long ago, as the beloved son of God came into our world as a vulnerable baby born under challenging circumstances. (Remember, Mary had to accept the words of the angel and Joseph, too had to make a decision when Mary told him she was pregnant). And with that birth, came our salvation, a light entered the world that can never, ever be overcome by darkness. In the birth of Christ we see the fulfillment of potential; the fullness of love, the transformative power of love. For this baby brought into our world – hope for tomorrow and for today; peace – which passes all earthly understanding, that stands even in the midst of turmoil; joy – that goes right to the very soul; and love, yes love that is pure and complete.
There is a line in the song we heard earlier that asks, “Mary did you know that when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God?” Can you imagine? Then ponder that every baby born has the dignity of being created in God’s image. That is something to think about every time you kiss a baby’s cheek. Maybe that’s what it is about babies. My friend, Angela, works at a daycare and she says she often feels this as she cares for the babies. But I think it is not just babies – but each of us, for we each bear the imprint of the Creator. We each bear that dignity. We each have that connection to and longing for the fullness of love found in Christ Jesus. Friends, that love is active and vital in the world still.
A couple of years ago when my granddaughter was very little, I purchased for her a small, plastic child-friendly nativity scene, made by Precious Moments. Many classic nativity sets have a manger and baby that are one piece. You know what I mean? Baby Jesus is kind of glued in as a part of the manger (like the one in fellowship hall), they don’t come apart. But this little nativity had a manger and a separate baby. Well let me tell you, that was a busy baby. Jesus did not stay in the manger. He was all over the place – in the dollhouse, in the bathtub, with the Lego’s, with the other little dolls, in the care, here at church – he was all sorts of places other than the nativity. She loved playing with him, and anywhere she was – there you would find this tiny Jesus figure, she carried him virtually everywhere and she became upset anytime she misplaced him, until he was found again and safely back with her.
Jesus came to us in a manger, but he did not stay there. We find him everywhere we are. Remember the special name given to him – Emmanuel, “God is with us.” He is with us in our good places and our difficult places. He is present in our sorrows and in our joys. There is no place he will not go in order to be with us. And oh, how very much we need him. For through this baby, is found our salvation. You know there really is something special about a baby – but this baby, the Christ child – I reckon he is the most beautiful. But that is not the most remarkable thing about this baby. This baby came to be our salvation. This baby came for you, that you might welcome and receive and love him. When you step out of this holy place tonight and back into the busy, crazy world – take him with you. Take him with you everywhere, Jesus, Emmanuel, for he is God with us.