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December 21, 2019

Baby Jesus, Baby God

Speaker: John McLarty

Audio Recording:


Sermon for Green Lake Church of Seventh-day Adventists
For December 21, 2019

Baby Jesus, Baby God.

That’s the way I learned it in Kindergarten in Sabbath School. And in Primary. We learned the story of Baby Jesus. I liked the shepherds first. People who were outside. With animals. That was cool. And because the angels sang, they were the very first to see the baby Jesus and kneel and worship the baby who was God.

And then the Wise Men showed up. Three Kings from Persia. Guided by the star. They brought gifts. And they, too, knelt. They bowed to the Baby who was also God, so the bowing was okay.

And then there were Simeon and Anna in the temple. Old people who recognized that this baby was no ordinary baby. Instead this peasant kid, born to peasant parents, was Savior of the World. Was Immanuel, God with us. God.

Somehow in the telling of these stories I got the idea that everyone should have recognized the specialness of this baby, this One and Only. It was scandalous that the savior of the world, the baby who was God, the infant who was born to rule the nations, was born in a stable. We told ourselves that if we had been there we would have given up our room for the Christ child. No barn for our baby Jesus!

But I, remember, even back then, when I was not that far from babyhood myself, I wondered, how would people have known? Sure, the shepherds knew because they were ambushed by angels. And anyone ambushed by angels would know something special was going on. And the Wise Men knew because they had their own private star. And if you have your own private star, that should be pretty impressive. But what if you were just a person, a regular, ordinary person? What if you have been an innkeeper? How would you know? How could you know?

I looked around at all the kids I knew and wondered, what if one of them was Christ? Especially, what if one of them that I didn’t like, one of them who was obnoxious, what if one of them was the Christ? How could I tell?

And then what about all the millions of kids around the world, how could I figure out the one special kid? The only one to save the world?

That was ages and ages ago. Generations ago. Back then I was young and grandma was old.

But I am old now, old enough to be a Wise Man.

And I have seen the star.

I am a shepherd, too. I know the angels’ songs. We sing them every year at this season.

And because I have seen the star and heard the song, I have found the child.

It comes with being a grandpa.

Like other grandpas I know, I study kids with intense delight and fascination. Often with astonished wonder. I study the one who looks like me and calls me Bapa. And I study the ones who use different words and eat different food and have different hair . . . but have hearts and eyes just like my own.

I study them. Tuesday night I watched them in the Christmas play at Cypress Adventist School. They were dressed up in eye-catching costumes. They were backed by a beautiful, well-crafted set. But it wasn’t the costumes and set that held my attention. It wasn’t even their well-delivered lines that captivated me. It was their faces. Their eyes. There was such intensity of life in their faces. I was mesmerized.

I watched their parents watch, holding their phones over their heads to capture the dazzling performance. I watched the pride on their parents’ faces. I tasted their parents’ delight and fierce love and ambition. Every parent in the gym was dreaming of their kids’ future. Their little ones would grow up to be doctors and judges and builders and musicians. They would make the world better. These little ones were on their way to save the world. To be in some small way, Messiahs. That’s what I saw in those parents watching their kids on stage.

When I looked I saw messiahs all across the stage.

One and Onlys

Baby Jesuses, baby gods.

I see them every morning waiting for the school bus on the street outside my door. Every child the incarnation of the hopes and fears of their parents.

I see a Baby Jesus in the girl on the cover of Time magazine with her ambition to save the planet. And in the young people in this congregation in law school or  medical school or taking engineering or waiting for surgery to open the door of their life and their potential just a little more. We would think their ambitions preposterous except that they are our kids.

Age has fogged my eyes. I don’t see so well with my eyes any more. But the years have taught my heart to see. And I see clearly now. I have seen the star. I have heard the song. I have found the child, the special one.

As a grandpa, I see with vivid clarity the truth shining from the Christmas manger: The special one is everyone. Every child, seen clearly turns into a baby Jesus, a baby god, an incarnation of the life of God, an agent of God’s salvation.

To those of us who are long past childhood, the call comes to do all we can to help them in their mission. We must push back against other old people who would mock them or belittle them.

Another story from the Bible about a baby who would become a savior:

The Hebrew people were immigrants in Egypt. As their numbers increased the Egyptians became afraid of the Hebrews and finally outlawed them. Every baby Hebrew was supposed to be killed.

If the face of this law, Amram and Jocabed still had a child, Moses. What were they thinking? The Bible reports that “his mother saw” that he was a “goodly child.” Other translations put it: He was a beautiful child, a special child, a fine child.

And I thought of the parents and grandparents I watched at the Christmas play. Monica watching Marc. Mesfin watching Nathan. Liz and Matt watching Megan and John. Flavia and Donovan watching Jacob. And each parent being astonished that their child was the most amazing, beautiful, talented child on the stage.

Moses’ mother saw that he was a fine child. So she decided to break the law and save his life.

She hid him, nursing him in secret for three months. But finally she could hide him no longer. At the end of her resources, she placed her child at the mercy of the richest, most powerful person she could think of–Pharaoh’s daughter. Jocabed “abandoned” her baby in a basket near the princess’ bath. When the princess spotted the basket, she ordered it brought to her. The basket was opened and the princess saw an ordinary peasant baby, an illegal child. And she faced the terrible choice: Would she obey the law and push the baby away or deliver it to soldiers for proper disposal or would she save it?

Baby Moses.
Baby Jesus.
Baby Saviors of the world.

Will we join in mocking them?

Will we approve of excluding them and killing them?

Or will we save them and become partners with them in their mission to save the world?

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