Saturday, December 23, 2006

Reflection, Dec. 24, 2006

Reflection, Dec. 24, 2006


As one of the on-going ministries of Chi Rho Press, here is a selection from our book of daily devotions, "Living as the Beloved: One Day at a Time," by the Rev. Dr. Sandra Bochonok.

Please read the Scripture passage and Dr. Bochonok's meditation. We hope you will be blessed.

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God in a diaper

"… to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."
Luke 2:5-7

The most powerful Christmas Eve service over the past forty years for me took place on a U.S. Navy ammunition ship in the Persian Gulf. I was the ship's chaplain. For many of the young men and women on board this would be the first Christmas away from home.

Several of us secretly labored to make it a memorable evening for them. We worked months in advance, thoughtfully preparing for Christmas. Every sailor would be included and would receive a Christmas stocking as his or her gift when they awoke on Christmas Day.

Several U.S. churches had mailed us cookies and fudge for the sailors. Each piece had to be individually wrapped before we stuffed Christmas stockings. Before the shipboard service, we carefully hung the Christmas stockings by each sailor's sleeping area.

I will always remember that particular Christmas Eve. We were thousands of miles away from our loved ones in unfriendly waters. It was a time before e-mail and cellular phones. All we had was each other. We gathered in the ship's cafeteria for a time of Christmas caroling. I had written a simple play and the commanding officer had a major part in it. The young sailors sang, laughed, and seemed to enjoy everything. I remember the looks on their faces as they crowded into the area. Suddenly Santa Claus arrived with gifts. The sailors were delighted. Then we lit candles and listened to the timeless and beloved Christmas story. We closed the Christmas Eve service with singing. Years later, I received a letter from one of those sailors. He wrote, "Dear Chaplain, I should have thanked you then, but didn't. I want you to know that you gave me one of the best Christmases in my life. Thank you for all your hard work."

Compared to Mary and Joseph, my Christmas Eve was quite easy. Mary labored for hours in a small and dirty stable without even a midwife. All she had was anxious Joseph who refused to abandon her. You had to be there to appreciate poor Joseph's stress level. Here baby Jesus was born.

The Prince of peace and light to the nations was born in obscurity and poverty. God's show and tell was then wrapped in swaddling cloths. Mary was no longer great with child. She now had a great child, God in a diaper. Perhaps we should enjoy a pregnant pause and linger with the idea, both funny and serious, of God in a diaper. How like God to dwell among us as a newborn baby.

God, bless us with Christmas joy as we remember the first Christmas with gratitude. Amen.

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