Have you ever seen a six week old baby? They are pretty helpless and dependent on the care of parents, grandparents, and other care givers – they are beginning to reach out to the world, to grasp shapes, and make cooing sounds….they still cry and they need lots of milk and tummy time, and of course a lot of love. I remember my son and two grandsons, simply sleeping for hours on my chest. It was meditative for me, and some of the best bonding in my life.
Six weeks after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph came to the temple to give a modest offering of gratitude for their young child’s life. It was an ordinary event, repeated by Jewish families throughout history. Yet, the ordinary is not so ordinary when God is involved.
Two senior adults, well into their eighties, have been waiting for the coming of the Messiah. They have virtually lived in the temple, and their eyes have been trained on each infant, coming to be blessed at the temple. “Could this be the one? Could that child be the Messiah? Is he the one we’ve been waiting for?”
Simeon and Anna wait, and then….a baby, ordinary, with working class parents, coming with the most modest offering. And their eyes are opened. “This is the one we’ve been waiting for! This is the child who will bring peace to humankind? This is God’s chosen child, the Messiah, the healer of the nations!”
But, isn’t that the way most of us felt with our children and grandchildren? Billions have been born, but this child reveals life in all its wonder and beauty.
Ellen Langer recently spoke about the “art of noticing” on the Diane Rehm show. The art of noticing is grounded in seeing each moment as novel, unique, and unrepeatable. With all of our experience, it’s the gift of seeing this moment again for the first time. In truth, each moment is new…each moment a singularity…each moment an opportunity to experience holiness.
The story is told of a monastery that had fallen on hard times, and was down to less than a dozen monks. Like many churches, it had seen better days, and many were unsure if it would survive beyond a few years. The abbot or leader regularly met with a local rabbi. One day he shared his fears about the future. The rabbi responded, “We’re in the same position. No comes to services except on the holy days. But, I’m sure of one thing. One of you is the Messiah.”
The abbot returned to the monastery puzzled. When his fellow monks asked what happened, he shared his encounter with the rabbi….and then concluded with “one of you is the Messiah.” The monks were equally perplexed, but over time they began to ask themselves, “Is Brother George the Messiah?” or “Thaddeus,”or “Mark?” They saw each other with new eyes and treated each other as if each was Christ on earth.
As days went by, the monastery began to glow, it vibrated with God’s light, and people came from miles around to bask in the Spirit of God’s light presence there.
Today’s Christmas message is simply this. The Christ child is here, the Messiah is here. Could it be one of us? Let’s follow Simeon and Anna and look for the Messiah in every face and praise and love each one who enters. Then, this place will glow and grow, and every day will be Christmas.