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January 5, 2013

Religion column: Put away the baby pictures and use the Force

Every winter, Christians pull out a dusty family album and turn to the baby pictures. We delight in the old, old snapshots. We love those mangy shepherds in the dark field, shocked, by an angel among them, and then bedazzled by a whole mob of them raising a heavenly ruckus. And we love to see the shepherds rushing off to Bethlehem — running to see “the wonders that had been revealed.”

And how we love that stable scene! Mary, hands clasped. Joseph, leaning on his staff. Shepherds, mouths agape, arms spread as if reaching to grasp what’s happened there. And those kings, their rich robes falling in soft folds as they kneel in soggy straw.

And the animals! How we love their place in the baby pictures! The dull-eyed sheep and the donkey and, in some pictures, also a cow. And sometimes in the sky above the scene, there’s an angel, a leftover, maybe, from that heavenly ruckus, holding a banner. It reads, “Gloria!”

Oh, glorious indeed! But it’s so easy, reveling in those old photos, to get lost in sentimentality, lost in enjoyment at feeling tender. Babies, bless them, can do that to us.

But take another look at that baby. Blunt Christian belief is that he represents God Almighty, entering the world in a stunning new way and with a spectacular message. God Almighty, “Emmanuel,” God-with-us! Suddenly on the scene to jump-start stalled humanity on the road again!

That’s what the baby is all about. He’s Emmanuel, God dwelling in humanity. No wonder we name him, not just Savior, but also our brother. He’s what we’re called to be. 

And, oh, 30 years after the baby pictures, wasn’t his message so simple? “Answer the love of your Source, Infinite Love itself. And also love others as you love yourself.

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