In fourteen years of being an ordained minister I have never preached a Christmas sermon. Yes, that's right, I am a virgin when it comes to such matters (quite fitting, don't you think?) yet I have been ready to conceive of such a sermon by the Holy Spirit for years. So come out of your post-holiday stupor and pour yourself a tall nog, snag the last Christmas cookie and join me here by the virtual fire for a Christmas meditation.
One of my many pet-peeves is the saying "Children are our future". Bah, humbug! Ever since I gave birth to the first of two, I have known with all my heart, soul, mind, and especially body that they are our right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. Forget that Hallmark nonsense about today being a gift that's why they call it the present. Usually having children is nothing like a Hallmark card. If it were, they'd sell them ripped and torn, with greasy fingerprints all over them, and when you opened it, an explosion of dirty laundry and the sound of milk bubbles being blown through a straw would greet you.
The beauty of the Christmas story, whether you believe it really happened that way or not (and it probably didn't), is that the One who set this universe and you and me in motion revealed the power of love in a tiny, helpless baby (and thus every baby)--right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. We hope and pray that our children will take care of us when we are older, but we know the truth is that they saved us from the moment we knew they were on their way to us. And they save us each day of our lives. They save us from being self-absorbed, greedy, depressed, angry, and lonely. If nothing else, Christmas reminds us of this as we attend a birth in a mean and lowly place.
Christmas is a salvation story as much as Easter. Toward the end of the birth story in the gospel of Luke, a priest named Simeon holds the baby Jesus in his arms and proclaims that he is now ready to die for he has seen the salvation of his people, the promise of God. Jesus hasn't done a thing yet but be born yet he has saved this old man from despair that he may die in peace.
Hearing the birth story of Jesus (which is easier for my children to believe than believing their parents were infants once) reminds us of all the children who need saving right now, this minute, can't wait any longer: children being conscripted into armies; children orphaned by AIDS, war, floods, earthquakes, and last year's tsunami; children sold into slavery and prostitution; children who need nutrition, health care, education, and a home; in some cases, a legal marriage for their parents. In short, children remind us that we are all worthy of love, simply because we draw breath.
Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her soul. Yet I would bet that Mary already knew that the moment she looked into her son's eyes. What we don't realize is how often that sword will drive home its dual edge of pain and love. Our world needs to have its soul pierced, to see that we still practice child sacrifice of the worst kind--the kind we choose to be blind to.
We are our children's future. We are the ones who create policy, social structure, decide what is truly valuable and what is just dust in the wind. The trouble is, we spend more of our energy chasing after that wind than on what is right in front of us, right now, this minute, can't wait any longer. God is watching us but through the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of our children and they are taking copious notes.