article for December 25, 2009

A reading from the nativity of our first-born, Annalise.  (To be read in the voice of “Linus,” from The Charlie Brown Christmas.)


Two weeks before Annalise, madeth her way into the world, when Lisa was great with child, a bright idea broke upon her husband, Tom.  A spirit of creativity overshadowed him.  “Behold, I shall make a cassette tape, ” he thoughteth unto himself.  “I shall fill it with songs and melodies about babies, and bearing children.”  “I shall call it, “Tunes for Childbirth.””  “I shall play it during my wife’s delivery.  It will sooth her and provide background music when she is sorely distressed and in labor.  And behold, her love for me will multiply.  “Like Sampson of old, courting Delilah, I shall scoreth some serious points as her husband and a fledgling father.”  And so, he did filleth the tape with such songs as to sooth a woman distressed and in labor.


When the day arrived, his wife, Lisa, saideth unto Tom, “Behold, my water breaketh.”  They traveled in haste until they entered Barnes-Jewish Hospital.  When the hospital bureaucrat came bearing forms, the baby leaped in her womb.  This causethed the staff to make haste and swaddle his wife in a hospital gown.  Then roadeth she in a wheel chair which delivered her unto a bed in yon “Labor and Delivery” department of the hospital.  There, her cervix did dilate to ten centimeters, and the contractions that would deliver her womb of a six pound baby girl did overtake her.


(The rest of the story to be continued in the voice of the author)


That’s when my moment arrived.  I reached over and pulled the cassette player out of its duffle bag, and pressed the “play,” button.  On came the soothing music of a gentle symphony playing Pachebel’s Cannon in “G.”  My wife interrupted her labor just long enough to look over at me and to say, “Tom, could you please turn that off?  It’s annoying me.”


“When your wife is pushing a six pound baby out of her birth canal,” I reasoned to myself, “You are not allowed to get your feelings hurt.” I immediately turned off the music.


The next thing you know, a squishy, wet, black haired, tiny girl had made her way into the world.  The hard labor had lasted for hours and had exhausted my wife.  After nursing the baby, and getting acquainted for a while, my wife nodded off to sleep.  Now it was my time.


The nurse assigned to us insisted that the baby be placed under a warming lamp.  I carried my brand new daughter over to the lights.  I asked myself, “If I were this little girl, what would I want right about now?”  The answer came back, “I’d want my womb back.”  And so I determined that I would do my best to provide a makeshift womb.  I took my arms, and I placed them snug around her womb-style as she looked up at me on that warming table.  With my face just inches from hers, we beheld one another.


And that’s when it occurred to me.  I reached over to the portable stereo system, and pressed the, “play,” button.  Little did I know that I had actually made that tape for myself.  As I peered into those slate blue eyes that were peering into my eyes, a Christmas carol cradled my daughter and me.  “Still, still, still, let all the world keep still…” That labor and delivery room was transformed into a chapel as my tears baptized our new little girl.


These are still my favorite kinds of moments.  One of them showed up a few years ago.  I was pondering the article I had written for that Christmas.  I was dissatisfied with it.  I just had the instinctive feeling that the right message had not landed yet.  As I sat, Bible in hand, in the glow of our pre-dawn Christmas tree, stewing over the manuscript, I looked up to find my baby girl silently wiping sleep out of her eyes.  Before her brother or sister had awoken, she must have climbed out of her crib and stolen downstairs.


I immediately gathered her into my arms.  She silently curled up and rested her face against my chest.  We sat wordlessly like this until the sun began to peek into the room, adding its own glow to those of the Christmas lights.  In the holy silence of that moment, I realized that Gabriel had been sent in the form of my daughter to deliver my Christmas message to me.


These moments of stillness enjoyed by a dad in a labor and delivery room, or in a favorite old chair are also God’s favorite moments.  God feels about you and me the way that I feel about one of my children climbing up on my lap and being still.  Christmas is a time for us to recognize ourselves as the beloved child that God wants to quietly cradle.


This Christmas, maybe during the Communion Meditation of “Silent Night,” or perhaps when your whole family is tucked into their beds, can you climb up onto God’s lap and still yourself?  Can you silently allow yourself to be God’s beloved child for a few Christmas moments?  Can you permit yourself to embrace the stunningly simple message that was sent, first by an angel, and then by an infant, that you are God’s Christmas present?



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