Christmas is that special time of the year when we sing about peace on earth and goodwill towards men. It’s a time when we also sing about how love came down from heaven in the form of a little child, God’s only begotten Son, born in a manger.
What does that really mean to us in this hard world in which we live? What does Christmas really mean when we celebrate the birth of God’s only Son? What does that little baby lying in the manger mean to me and my relationship with God?
Let me put it this way. Once there was this family who was downtown taking in the sights and doing a little Christmas shopping when they decided to grab lunch while they were in the city. The mother was sitting with her husband and children in the restaurant with the littlest boy, Erik, sitting in one of those high chairs at the end of the table. Everything was going well as everyone in the restaurant was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, her son Erik began to squeal with happiness and began saying, “Hi!” over and over again as he pounded his fat little baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.
The mom looked around and saw the source of Erik’s merriment. It was a man who pants were baggy with a sipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map.
The mom was too far from him to smell, but she could just imagine what it must be like. The man’s hands waved and flapped on loose wrists, “Hi there baby, Hi there big boy. I see you buster,” the man said to Erik.
The husband and wife exchanged looks and were uncertain of what to do, but their little boy Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hi!”
Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at the family and then at the man. The mom thought, “this old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Their meal came and the old man began shouting from across the room, “Do ya play patty cake? Do ya know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo!”
Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk, they thought. The mother felt embarrassed and the rest of the family ate in silence; all except little Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row-bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.
They finally got through the meal and headed for the door. The husband went to pay the check and told his wife to meet him in the parking lot, but the old man sat poised between the mom and the door. “Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” she prayed in her thoughts. As she drew closer to the man, she turned her back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As she did, Erik leaned over her arm, reaching with both arms in a baby’s pick-me-up position. Before she could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from her arms to the man.
Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love and submission laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder. The man’s eyes closed, and there were tears hovering beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain and hard labor, cradled the baby’s bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.
The mom stood there awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on the mom. He said in a firm, commanding voice, “You take good care of this baby.” Somehow she managed, “I will,” from a throat that contained a stone.
Then he pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in great pain. And as the mom received her baby back, the man said, “God bless you, ma’am. You’ve given me my Christmas gift.”
She could only manage a whispered, “Thank you,” and with her son back in her arms, she ran for the car. Her husband was wondering why she was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why she was saying, “My God, my God, please forgive me.”
You see, she realized that she had just witnessed God’s love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. She realized that really, she was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. She felt it was God asking, “Are you willing to share your son for just a moment, when I have shared mine for all eternity?” The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded her, “To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as a little child.”
All those years ago, God gave us the Christ who looks beyond our dirty suit of selfishness, and loves us for who we are. Can not the Christ Child remind us then, this year to do the same to others in our lives? Amen.
Pastor Robbie Taylor