(NYSE Post, 11/27/2015)
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18.2-4)
Just before this past Thanksgiving, on November 23rd, a church janitor thought he heard a baby crying as he worked. He searched for the source of the sound and found nothing inside, where he had been sweeping.
So he went outside and continued looking. And there, in the Nativity Scene, was a wailing, weeping newborn infant, lying in the Manger.
The child was only a few hours old.
Amazingly, the church where the child was found is the “Holy Child Jesus” Catholic Church in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of New York City.
Fr Christopher Heanue, the church’s pastor, described the scene: “The secretary burst in and said, ‘Father, there’s an emergency in the church, you have to come.” He ran to the Nativity scene, and there, at the spot of Baby Jesus, was a newborn, only a few hours old. His Bishop, Octavio Cisnero, also there, was amazed: “There was a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a towel.”
All stories are symbolic – they stand for many things, and that is most true of this one. A little child was laid gently, literally, into the place of Jesus. The church community – some of whom have volunteered to adopt the infant – represent the Righteous Joseph, foster father of the Lord, and also, in her maternal care, the Virgin Mary herself. Except for the Church’s name, which is unbelievably coincidental, the baby did not come to celebrities or to the rich and important or to anyone special – just a janitor standing in for the shepherds, an priest and bishop for the wise men, a church secretary for Salome, the midwife, who attended the birth in the midnight silence when the Time of Beauty began.
Add to this the odd fact that usually, this Roman Catholic parish puts up the nativity scene later in the Advent season. For some reason or another, the good folk there put up the scene earlier, a few days before Thanksgiving. And it just so happened that an 18-year-old girl gave birth to a baby boy, all by herself, and in her naïve simplicity, took the child to “someplace safe”:
“I knew if I left him in God’s hands, he would be OK.”
Doesn’t that remind you of Galatians 4.4? “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”
Everything had been arranged by the God of Peace. There were no coincidences.
There never are.
There are similarities and analogies galore between the Christmas Story and this story. Just as there is a limitless unfolding of analogy between the Gospel and your biography, and mine.
But there are differences, and they are even more beautiful. The chief of these differences is that when the Child Christ was swaddled in a manger, He had already been God the Son for eternity: there was never a time that the Baby Jesus was not also the eternal Word of God. His birth was painless. It transcended the Fall of Man. His Mother Mary remained a Virgin before His Nativity, during it, and afterward.
And the Baby Jesus would perfectly obey the Father, finally, thirty three years later, dying as the God-Man on the Cross, destroying the imprisonment of Hell, and trampling down death by death.
Only children, and older folk who are brave enough to be childlike, accept this story. They say, in their hearts, “Of course it works out this way.” Only children are not so bothered by the miraculous, the wonder of a reality that is un-seeable and un-definable, to be sure, but also undeniable.
Only children want to be part of such a reality, to take part in the Story of the Christmas of Christ and the New Year and every year …
… a story that is not for the rich, but for the poor … not for the arrogant, but for the meek … not for the violent and the enraged, but for the peacemakers …
… a story in which nothing is ever coincidental, but everything is miraculous, in which lost newborns are found, and the face of the other is recognized as friend …
… a story which is wrapped up in the One Story told in the One Word of God, the story of the Son of God and the Son of Man, Who as a Child, made all things new.