Years ago, Cyndi Lauper covered a song called “Money Changes Everything” whose lyrics include, “We think we know what we’re doing/ We don’t know a thing/ it’s all in the past now/ money changes everything”.
Listened to Rachel Maddow this morning and my head wanted to blow off. I had lunch with my friend Char shortly after that, and (despite my cold, forehead and sinuses acting up), my blood pressure subsided. We agreed that 2016 was the worst year in our memories, both for this country and around the world. We agreed that there were so many fronts that we cared about, that the looming need overwhelmed us. We both could see how violence could be seen as an answer, but it was one neither of us could, would, or should take.
To correct this, and to steady ourselves for the future work God calls us to, we agreed we needed a break. She has been told to look for beauty and I had begun to keep away from Facebook a lot more, and maybe avoid some news.
Then we talked about staying positive, being for something, our kids and Christmas coming quickly before going home or work. In that moment, it all came together. A child changes everything. Christmas, peace, love, hope, the Magnificat, the baby Jesus, my children, her children, children we know, Rachel Maddow, Donald Trump, everything. Christmas arrived in my heart and my mind, a few days before it did on the calendar.
We think we know what we’re doing. We don’t know a thing. It’s all in the past now. A child changes everything. Rachel Maddow had started her segment by talking about King Midas,how we think of “the Midas touch” as a good thing, but in reality it’s a cautionary tale. Midas liked it until he tried to hold his daughter … and turned her to gold.
In the Christmas story, we will see the Wise Men (or kings, if you prefer) shortly. They will continue the tradition of bringing gold to honor the King… until they see the child among the animals and forget where they are. In that moment, none of it will matter but the child. In that moment, they will be awestruck by the innocence, the fragility, the wonder, the awesomeness and potential that is a child.
Even amidst the slaughter this year that was Aleppo, for a brief second we saw a picture of a child in an ambulance and we knew what we, humanity, had done. For a few moments, not an hour or two, but literally a few moments, we stopped and our humanity returned. We realized that we treasured the innocence, the fragility, the wonder, the awesomeness and potential that is a child who grows to be a teen and then an adult.
Children do that to you. They mess with everything you ever thought, good or bad, as Mary and Joseph undoubtedly got to know. They may be cute and cuddly, but they cry, and poop and wet. They may or may not love you always, but you are connected, and now you are responsible because they are helpless. All the little teen moms who hope to give birth to a ceramic or plastic doll are in for a shock. Like all gifts from God, though, the child is better than the idol they hoped for — and a lot more work.
Smelly shepherds could be in awe of the baby that God told them about without noticing the smell of the child’s bodily fluids. They already spent their lives in nature, so they had experience with awe in life. Scripture tells us that this child brought his own light and sound show, something they weren’t expecting — awe to a factor of exponential effect. God, once again, was better than they could have hoped for.
And Mary pondered all of this in her heart. Joseph found a decency in his heart that he didn’t know was there — above the idolatry of the Law — and that yielded this… a son, and shepherds, angels, and kings, monetary and spiritual gifts he’d never considered, and a wife who knew things about the universe that he couldn’t even imagine. All of these gifts came from his decision to be decent and not shame his young bride! One moment of kindness brought forth all of these blessings!
No protocol or gifts of a king or an Empire seemed important by comparison. The new parents had, for that moment and likely the rest of their lives, their priorities straight.
I and my wife are just parents of two wonderful children and I know this. Char are Jim are the adoptive parents of another awe-inspiring child and they, too, know what’s important in life. They know who is worth protecting, who is worth defending, and who they’d give their lives for. None of those children want power for its own sake, or gold for its own sake, or destruction for its own sake. When we look at our children, we pay no attention to that man behind the curtain who thinks he’s important.
2000 years ago, those parents had that child. Their minds must have been blown. God’s priorities are so much more fulfilling than ours, and that of the coming Executive Branch. May we find the Child in our lives that brings us to restored hope, renewed minds and hearts in this, the bleak midwinter.
Resisting with peace,