Skip the Crunch, Kneel at the Crèche! One Stop Shopping. Where’s the Infant’s Department?

Eighteen days to go. How's it comin' with your soul? Are you makin' a place for Jesus, the One who is to come? Or are you stuck in more mundane preparations? Shopping, cards, entertainments, holiday specials and the rest? If you're in that hectic, not-so-holy place, here's a little help. Try one stop shopping!When you do, head straight for the Infant's Department. There… is the One Gift-Sufficient. The one thrilling, It's-just-what-I-wanted: How-did-you-know gift! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There's just SOMEthing about that name. Last week, we spoke of entertaining for Christmas, a guest list of one: Jesus. He makes clear he's the only/real/anointed one, the Messiah, for whom we wait. And (John's opening line makes it clear) God has had this Christmas and this Christ in mind (and heart) since time began. Our place and time makes Christmas a gathering time. We assemble (and exchange) people and stuff, hoping to achieve a kind of "Enoughness" about the holy day. ‘Enough food, fun, family and friendship. ‘Enough gifts to show and receive affection/affirmation. We exhaust our feet, patience, pocketbooks. Still, it seems too little to ward off the cold and dark of winter dead-ahead, to say nothing of the sin and darkness in our souls. So what would it take to find that sufficiency, that enoughness for which we scour the web, the mall, and even the church? So long as we're in here, we know enough to answer: Jesus. But why in this infant form? What is it in him we crave will be in us? And what will be the difference in our selves, our world and our eternity?

Come Christmas, you and I oughta have the good sense and good soul to Christmas shop exactly as God does. One stop. The Infant Department. Nowhere else! Do this and we begin to understand why God insists that Saving Grace, God-on-earth-as-in-heaven, just has to begin with a baby in Bethlehem.  I shared a story with our Bible classes this week. It's out of S. California. And true. A boy, 12, falls off a horse. Paralyzed. Utterly. Eyes open, unmoving. Unresponsive. Weeks of tests, hospital, waiting. Nothing. And no answer for why. "Emotional (we'd say spiritual) paralysis." Literally scared stiff. ‘Til one day a remarkable nurse brought in a happy, healthy baby. ‘Put it on the boy's chest. It crawled up, cooed, touched the boy's face. He smiled. ‘Hugged the baby. ‘Came alive again. Wow! (J. W. Moore) A little baby, maybe only a little baby has this unique power to awaken and restore us to life. And free us from the paralyses of fear and so much more. God knows. If we are to begin again, God'll have to start with us from a new beginning. Only the Infant Department can bring us this gift.  

Christ grew to be a rabbi, we know. But you and I are so unknowing of so many of the rich rabbinic stories Christ carried on his heart. They helped him see what we can't, or have lost somehow. Rabbi Jesus knew all about the Infant Department. He knew that's where God prepares and performs so many of His miracles. "Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth." Christ knew that psalm (139) was right. He knew the teaching the rabbis taught in support of it. "Every soul in the womb is visited by its own guardian angel.  The angel spends the womb-time teaching the soul the entire Law, all we need to succeed. Our soul learns all about its mission, what it will need to survive and thrive in life. [The rabbis said it was as if a single light illuminates the earth from one end of the world to the other.] When the soul is ready to be born the angel says, ‘Go out there, do your mission, and be good.'  The angel then touches the soul [Get this: gesture] on the space above the upper lip. It leaves a small indentation as each child, to you and me, is pushed out into the world.  O, the soul consciously forgets all it's learned as it's born: innocent, with no knowledge.  But somewhere deep in the soul, there lingers the memory of the angel and the teachings." The sign of them's right under our nose! CHRISTMAS OUGHT NOT SURPRISE US THAT GOD BEGINS/ENDS IN THE INFANT DEPARTMENT. IT WAS NO SURPRISE TO JESUS. Songs to teachings, Christ himself did know, God's saving work begins at the beginning. We dare not miss this in our searching for Christmas salvation. Why, it could be said, God's desire for us, even God's will to deliver, is right under our noses, and as visible as the baby at Bethlehem.  

So what manner of gift, what character of soul comes to us from the Infant Department delivered at Bethlehem? Mary knows. After all, it's an angel who tells her. The Baby-of-Bethlehem is a child of the Lord's own Favor. This is a Word to us as surely as to Mary. God will conceive in us and deliver through us. No matter how dark the hour appears, or stern our fears, this child is a sign that God is on our side! (If the rabbi's are right, that mission was whispered to the Christmas Infant right there in Mary's womb. And it may not be so far afield to wonder if Gabriel himself might have done the whispering!) No wonder neither Mary nor we should live afraid. But there's more. "The power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God." Shadows were thought of great power in ancient days. And they are the one thing in a walking-world one can never run away from. Once we can see, you and I, that the good and glorious power of God can live in Mary's shadow, there's hope for us in ours. O how many of us are needlessly and literally, "Afraid of our own shadow." The word to Mary is a declaration to us all, "No more; no more!" And get this. Don't miss it. Mary gets word. From now on, "With God nothing will be impossible." With such a word, no wonder Mary leaves the Infant Department with no need to shop elsewhere for Christmas. "Bring it on," she says.  "Let it be with me, as Thou hast said!" 

Now friends, should we ourselves "shop in the same store", so to speak, enquire of the same "Infant Department", look what we will take away. Someone, some holy One, who will take the whole ordering of the world on his shoulder. (That's especially good to know when we feel the weight of the world's on our shoulders! ‘You ever feel like that?) And according to the prophet Isaiah, who whispered as much into Gabriel's ear, who passed it along to Mary, who passed it to Jesus, who still wants to pass it along to us, "the increasing peace that comes through this child will never end!" My family needs to know this. And yours? Our church needs to know this. Our neighbors do, too. How about yours? I believe our community needs to know. And I know a new government now forming and a world currently waiting need to know. Will we tell them? Will you? Oh, it's angel's work. And it all begins in the Infant Department. And it ends with justice and right relationships between us, and between us and heaven. As you come to this Christmas, why would you shop anywhere else? Or send a fellow shopper to any other department?

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