Isaiah 9:2-4, 6-7; Luke 2:1-20
There’s something about the birth of a baby. It’s like the world starts over again.
It’s like no matter what ever else is going on in life there is a pause and at least for a little while there is a newness, a freshness, a miracle, tiny yet powerful, that appears and says, “Look, look at me! I’m newly created by God and come to you, as some poet once said, trailing clouds of glory.”
Aren’t we all, in some way, in awe of the miracle of birth? What is it? Some sense that this little being is fresh from heaven, freshly formed and sent to us out of the heart of God?
I remember hearing the story of a little girl who’d just had a baby brother. Mom and Dad had brought baby brother home. That evening Mom noticed the little girl slipping quietly into her baby brother’s room. Mom and Dad, a little worried about what might happen with older sister alone with the baby, silently slid into place beside the door to the nursery. And then they heard the little girl say softly to her baby brother: “Tell me. Tell me about God, what God looks like. I’ve almost forgotten.”
Buff and I were in Seattle a few weeks ago to welcome the newest grandchild. A beautiful little girl with dark eyes and dark hair. Her parents named her Stella. And as we held her she looked at us so seriously, curling and uncurling her little fingers and searching us out with her bright eyes. Such a bright little star, Stellar was, as she stirred in us the simplest of responses: adoration and joy.
I held her and when she got sleepy she lay on my chest and sank into a drowsy rhythm of tiny heart beat and baby breath. My heart could do nothing but join the rhythm of hers. As I rocked her I was at peace with the world.
You might think she was the first grandchild, but, no, she’s the tenth. As each one has come along our families have been refreshed and renewed as we gather around the miracle. Whatever is happening in the larger complex and crazy world outside, we experience a sense of hope and joy as we gaze on the little bundle before us.
A few years ago a woman named Charlene Costanzo wrote a book. She named the book The Twelve Gifts of Birth. The book was written for her two children. She explains: as my children “approached adulthood, I wondered how I could nurture their self-worth and offer direction for the next stage of life. The twelve gifts came to me in a dream.”
In a minute, I’m going to share with you those twelve gifts that came to Ms. Costanzo in a dream. I agree with her. I believe every child comes into the world with these special gifts God has provided them. We received them at our birth. Our children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and all the children here at St. James’s and all over the world received them as they came into the world.
But I also want you to consider that these are gifts that a baby boy over two thousand years ago brought with him when he came from heaven to earth. Gifts that He wants us to remember at this time of year – Christmas – when we mark his birth. Gifts for us that He tried throughout his life and his death to help us see were ours. Gifts from a Creator Father who wanted nothing but the most abundant life for his children.
And so I quote to you from The Twelve Gifts of Birth;
At the wondrous moment you were born, as you took your first breath, a great celebration was held in the heavens and twelve magnificent gifts were granted to you.
The first gift is Strength. May you remember to call upon it whenever you need it.
The second gift is Beauty. May your deeds reflect its depth.
The third gift is Courage. May you speak and act with confidence and use courage to follow your own path. (I think God would add: the path I have dreamed for you.)
The fourth gift is Compassion. May you be gentle with yourself and others. May you forgive those who hurt you and yourself when you make mistakes.
The fifth gift is Hope. Through each passage and season, may you trust the goodness of life.
The sixth gift is Joy. May it keep your heart open and filled with light.
The seventh gift is Talent. May you discover your own special abilities and contribute them toward a better world.
The eighth gift is Imagination. May it nourish your visions and dreams.
The ninth gift is Reverence. May you appreciate the wonder that you are and the miracle of all creation.
The tenth gift is Wisdom. Guiding your way, wisdom will lead you through knowledge to understanding. May you hear its soft voice.
The eleventh gift is Love. It will grow each time you give it away.
The twelfth gift is Faith. May you believe.
I don’t know what you found under your Christmas tree this morning. But you made the effort to come here this morning to this place, I assume, to find something in addition to whatever was under that tree. What this morning offers, from God’s heart, is a baby – born for us. A baby who will grow into a teacher, a savior. One to whom we can turn to to help us live into the gifts of our Divine Father.
Morning has broken. It is a new day after a long night of birthing. Rejoice! And may you kneel in wonder and adoration on this Christmas morning – feeling in your hearts the stirring of new life and a renewed hope for a better world, beginning today.
So, take with you this morning the newly remembered gifts you received at birth. You don’t need a big Santa sack, just an open and receptive heart.