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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Holy Child | Fourth Sunday of Advent

"The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God." 
Luke 1:35 NRSV

A man once told me that when his first child was born, he felt no connection to her and, looking at her in the hospital, felt as though he was seeing an alien. That probably came down to lack of preparation, as he was still a teenager at the time. For me, it was an instant connection. In an instant I wanted only to hold and protect him. The only weirdness I felt was the uncanny feeling of seeing someone with a family resemblance there with me in Brazil. There was something profoundly holy in the connection I felt with him, just as there already was with his sister, my adoptive daughter.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary to expect a son, in keeping with many ancient myths it was to happen without a biological father. He said, 'therefore the child to be born will be holy.' Anyone who has had a child knows, however, that regardless of the parentage, every child to be born is 'holy.' The sacredness is found in the extension of the human family, the renewal of a lineage, and the incredible potential of each new life. The presence or absence of a father, the social status of the parents, and the other surrounding circumstances pale in light of new life. 

Too often children are born into situations that are far from ideal. An abusive home or extreme poverty comes first to mind, but in any case this world has never really been 'child-safe.' And so we do the best we can to shelter children, whether our own or those fate has brought into our lives via other paths. As a society we make and enforce laws to attempt to make things right for the little ones, and as families we extend love and care. Deep down we know that all children, of whatever race and whatever ability, are special. The hard-hearted find it easy to think carelessly about children in difficult settings, like war zones or drought-stricken areas, up until they see a face. In those eyes all but the worst of us see an innocence and vulnerability that we instinctively are drawn to defend.

No angelic visitation nor celestial sign is required for life to be holy and good. It is what we make it, and children come to us as a gift however they arrive. Perhaps your childhood wasn't very good. Childhood trauma should not be, and if that's a path you've walked, know that you are worthy of so much better. It could be that you are a single parent doing your best to provide. Know that your loving presence alone is most of the battle. Maybe you've never had children and never intend to have any. That's perfectly valid as well, and neither adds to nor takes away from who you are. Those without children but working for a better world are doing it for the new generations. 

Whatever your reality, you were born a holy child, and you are a gift to this world.