Posture: Responding to Promise
Having a child—any child—is a kind of promise. It’s a promise of a different life. It’s a promise of a different future. It’s a promise of fulfilled hopes.
And yet birth—and life—can cause us to lose sight of all that promise. Too many of us dads (especially!) busy ourselves so completely with hospital bags and pre-birth checklists, with hospital approach routes and breathing (“HOO-HOO-HEE”), that we are unable to enjoy the magic that is happening until after it has already behind us.
As the days and the nights go by, and sleep deprivation wears on deeper and deeper, too many of us tend to lose sight of the mystery and the promise that we hold in our arms, and whose diaper (again!) needs changed, and who just completed a successful coup to take over every dimension of our lives.
School begins, and conflicts grow, and outside influences abound, and everything is second-guessed. And the mystery of the promise fades even more. Before long, if we’re not careful, we may become jaded about the promise. In the midst of chemical/hormonal imbalances, incomplete brain development, and what we feel is almost certain failure on our part, we may lose sight of hope.
But if we’re lucky, and we have such opportunity, for many of us, the passage continues from adolescence to adulthood and independence, and perhaps to new life and parenthood once again, to new responsibilities and new promises and relationships adapted. We take on some “grand” descriptions: grandmother/grandfather to grandchildren.
When this happens, relationships and promise again take a turn. And even with our own children, and our own parents, we may find ourselves rediscovering some of the promise that we once knew as we held a little baby in our arms, startled at this rather dramatic turn of events.
It must have been the same for Mary and Joseph as it has been for many of us. All the chaos of a birth: the arrangements and unexpected delays, the challenges of travel and the hinderances of health, the closed doors and the not knowing what we’re doing……
In the face of such obstacles, all of those hoped-for realities in Joseph’s mind must have just faded. The mystery must have evaporated in the face of the necessary. The promise must have been pushed aside by matters more pressing.
We parents—and perhaps especially we fellas—try to do the best we can for our family. Joseph tries to provide the best ways he knows how. And in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, he must have felt like he failed completely……
And yet…… the time of the birth came (as it always does) whether we are ready or not. A little bitty baby is born—a promise himself—a promise of a different future and a different way of life and a different result to our human condition. This baby—this promise—suddenly lay squirming in Joseph’s arms.
I can only imagine in that moment—for at least that moment—the fear of traveling-while-pregnant must have faded. The heightened pulse and blood pressure from the difficulty securing a room must have slowed. The protective anger at such poor accommodations must have eased. And there was only the promise that remained: the promise of a baby—of any baby but especially this baby—wriggling in his swaddled blanket in Joseph’s arms.
Life will forever be different for Joseph—as any parent today can testify. Yet on account of this baby, life will forever be different for all of us. For this baby—squirming in his daddy’s arms—will save the world. He will come to be our friend, our mentor, our savior. He will show us such love, teach us such truth, and guide us in such a way that we might have life and life abundant.
And for those reasons today, we give thanks. We celebrate. And we remember and rekindle the fire that promise sets in our very souls. For the promise of Jesus, born into our world this day, we say, “Happy Christmas.”