A Christmas Message: "Immanuel - God with us"
photo copyright Margaret Kalms
To all the new parents I ask you to remember the moment you first saw your new baby. Remember the sense of awe and excitement of a new human in the world. I certainly felt it when each of my children were born. Despite my biological training and sex education, I still asked in wonder ‘Where did you come from?’ It was a spiritual question, not a biological one. I knew the practicalities of creation but the practicalities did not prepare me for the force of emotions that overwhelmed me when I first looked into the eyes of each new child. This emotion is spiritual, full of hope and joy. I photographed newborn babies for several years in Canberra’s hospitals and I never tired of the awe of holding and looking at a newborn baby. As I said in ‘Passages Through Parenthood: real life stories from Australian parents’ (Anne Godfrey. Lothian books 2000)
I still feel a sense of wonder when I hold a newborn baby. Each baby represents another try at life, another chance to explore what it is to be human. Maybe this baby will make fewer mistakes than I, achieve greater things, inspire or help more people. Each new baby brings hope. We can look into a baby’s face and imagine any future. They help us to think of and plan for the future because it will be twenty years before they are full members of the community. Babies give us a continuum of life that is difficult to describe, a sense of history, a sense of generation following generation and of time flowing on. Who of us has not marvelled at those beautiful tiny fingers and toes of a newborn and not wondered at the sheer mystery of life. When we grasp how much of a miracle birth is, we also know that life is precious.
This experience is one aspect of Immanuel – God with us. God came to earth as a human to experience ALL of our emotions and to share the experience of our lives and to live in perfect harmony with God. In doing so in a mysterious and miraculous way He reconciled God and humanity.
As a Christian I am asked to see Immanuel – God with us in everybody. As a human it is relatively easy to see Immanuel – God with us in our friends and family, those whose company we enjoy. It is harder to see Immanuel – God with us in people we do not like, people who have betrayed or hurt us, people who are cruel or violent, or people who look, dress and smell differently from us. Christmas is a time to remember all our fellow humans to see the miracle of creation in every person, to see the mark of God within no matter what their life situation, to look beyond our personal preferences. Our church reaches out to many during the Christmas season by giving food hampers to local people, hosting community events, giving Christmas shoe-boxes as presents to children and by sending any money offerings gathered on Christmas Day to Baptist World Aid for suffering people around the world.
Last night we received a call that our son had a ‘bad landing’ when he went para-gliding. He is in a country hospital recovering from his injuries 50km from home. This is a dread that any parent fears. Of course we drove to the hospital immediately. It was a sombre mood during the drive to the hospital in the dark last night. We wondered exactly how injured our son was and how it may affect his young life in the future. I am reminded of the fragility of life, how quickly circumstances can change. Although our son’s life is not in immediate danger, this fall has reminded us of the possibility of death. Another reason to see Immanuel – God with us in all of us, is that life can be taken from us at any time. In the developed countries like Australia where I live, it is easy to forget the fragility of life. We know life expectancy is around 80 years so we expect everyone to live ‘til their 80s. We have a tendency to take each other for granted, to take life for granted. But death happens at all ages, even in Australia. Life is a gift to be treasured. But not held on to. I still do not want to wrap my children in ‘cotton-wool’. I’m glad they are doing exciting things and I will not restrict their adventures. I know they are learning from experienced trainers who will teach safety issues. I hope that when my time comes to die, I will be doing something exciting or something worthwhile, because we ALL die.
I wish you all a Happy New Year bringing you many blessings, that God is with YOU and that you achieve good things and grow closer to your life purpose.