By Pastor Glenn Pease
Elenor Cicok had a three year old daughter who developed an emotional block and ceased to talk. She never said a word, not even mama when she wanted her mother. It was a terrible ordeal as she went month after month in silence. Her mother taught her about God and prayer, and read to her about Jesus. Her favorite picture in the book was of Mary holding baby Jesus.
After two years of this, one day just before Christmas she was walking past the church with Vicki, and she took her in. There was the Virgin Mary and the child. The girl suddenly broke her silence and said, "Look! Baby Jesus!"
Babies have a way of opening up voices that otherwise are silent. Go walking through a mall with a baby and total strangers will come up to you and talk about the baby. They would never dream of approaching you without the baby present. Babies break down walls like nothing else. Babies may not talk, but they motivate more talk than most anyone. The Christmas baby is no exception. He has probably stimulated more words than any thousand babies ever born.
Not all talk of babies is positive. Someone asked little Tommy, " how do you like your new baby sister?" "She is allright," he said, "but there's a lot of things we needed more." There was nothing man needed more on that first Christmas, however, than the baby Jesus. He was the first born so he did not stimulate any of the jealousy problems that often come with a later child. Johnny said,"sure there are no favorites in this family! If I bite my fingernails I get a rap on the knuckles, but if baby eats her whole foot they think its cute." Jesus did not have this sort of thing, but he did have to contend with Herod who had no room in his heart for babies announced as the King of Israel. He so despised this infant king that he killed all the infants in Bethlehem that could have been him. He marred that first Christmas with tragedy because of his anti-baby attitude.
We do have to give Herod credit for one thing, he knew the potential of a baby. He was not so naive as to think a baby is nothing to worry about. He recognized that a baby can be a serious threat because babies represent the future, a future that will be changed because of them. Herod, by his hostility to a baby, bore witness to the reality of baby power. When God wants to change history He starts with a baby. That is why the Bible is so full of begats. Somebody is always having a baby, and that meant a new chapter in God's plan.
For four hundred years Israel was enslaved in Egypt. Then baby Moses was born, and that marked the beginning of a radical change for God's people. Their deliverance began with the deliverance of this one baby. Moses had to be saved to become the savior of his people. So in the New Testament story, the deliverance of all men began with the deliverance of the baby of Bethlehem. He had to be saved from Herod to become the Savior of the world. Save a baby and you may be saving a family, a race, a nation, or a whole world. Baby power is a major factor in all of history.
In 1809, Napoleon was the master of Europe and all eyes were on him. But the future really belonged to the babies born that year. That was the year for the birth of Lincoln, Gladstone, Tennyson, Poe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Cyrus McCormick, Chopin and Mendelssohn. These babies gave the world a creative future that outweighed all the damage done by Napoleon. Europe was thinking of battles, but it was the babies that would change the future. The decisive battles are all forgotten except to a few historians, but the decisive babies are remembered by millions.
Wise men recognize the baby power in history. Socrates said, "Could I climb to the highest place in Athens, I would lift my voice and proclaim: 'fellow citizens, why do ye turn and scrape every stone to gather wealth and take so little care of your children, to whom one day you must relinquish it all?'" He was wise enough to see the obvious. The people of God in the Old Testament could see it as well for their hope of salvation hinged on babies.
God's very first command to Adam and Eve was in Genesis 1:28 where he says they are be fruitful and multiply so as to fill the earth and subdue it. In other words, by means of babies man would conquer the rest of creation. When they sinned and fell God did not change His plan for it remained baby centered. We read in Genesis 3:15 that the offspring of Eve would ever be in conflict with the offspring of Satan, and that Eve's would crush the head of Satan's. The very first promise of salvation was centered in a baby. Baby power has always been the hope of man because that is how God intends to save man. God confirms this again by His promise to Abraham that by his seed all the families of the earth will be blessed. The reason Christmas is a universal celebration is because it celebrates the birth of the baby that fulfills that promise. The Baby of Bethlehem is the central focus of the entire universe, and the entire plan of salvation.
This explains the reason for the child saving stories of the Old Testament. God had to spare Isaac for the sake of His promise. God had to spare the seed of David for the sake of His promise. David had many sons but they were all killed by family in-fighting. Only one child was left by the name of Joash. The house of David hung by the single thread of one little baby boy, but one was enough. By means of that baby God kept the line going to fulfill the promise in the baby boy of Bethlehem.
Plutarch's story of Themistacles has him saying of his own little baby at his mother's breast, "That child is master of the world!" His friend asked, "How can that be?" Themistacles answers, "The Athenians are masters of the Greeks; the Greeks are masters of the world; I am master of the Athenians; my wife is the master of me; and this little child is the master of his mother. Therefore, this child is the master of the whole world!" If this was true of that baby, how much more was it true of the Babe of Bethlehem who made the world, and now had come into His world to redeem it? Someone described Christmas as the story of a baby going after a lost ball to make it his own. Jesus came into this world to retrieve the ball he made. It was His by right of creation, but now He was going to make it His by right of redemption.
But why come as a baby? Why not as a grown man riding in from the desert on a white stallion to take over the government of His people? This baby business seems so slow. Why mess with years of immaturity and the need to grow? God could have taken a short cut and skipped all this baby stuff. But instead, this baby stuff becomes the dominant theme of Christmas. Dr. Luke makes the two long introductory chapters of his Gospel, baby centered. They are detailed accounts of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. Matthew, likewise , devoted the first two chapters of his Gospel to the babies of the ages, and to the birth story of Jesus and the wise men. Christmas is baby oriented. We have more detail about the babyhood of Jesus than any other period of his life until his public ministry began. Let's look at how Dr. Luke is baby centered in two ways. First look at his emphasis on-
I. BABY CENTERED COMMUNICATION
By this I mean baby talk and talk about babies in his first two chapters. Dr. Luke even tells us about pre-natal communication. It sounds too spectacular to be true, but it is confirmed by modern studies to be a reality. In Luke 1:41-44, we read of how Elizabeth tells Mary that as soon as she greeted her the baby in her womb was so affected by the sound that he leaped in her womb for joy. Can babies be affected by sounds outside the womb? Do they receive some kind of communication from their external environment? Two Japanese scientists, Ando and Hattori, did a study with two groups of infants. The first group spent their prenatal months near the Osaka airport while the second group lived in a quiet neighborhood. Babies from both groups were delivered at a hospital located under the flight pattern. Those babies that grew up in their mother where the plane noises were common were five times more likely to sleep through the sounds of the planes overhead. But those babies that did not live near the airport would wake up screaming about 50% of the time when the planes flew over. They demonstrated that the fetus does hear and adapt to the sounds of its environment.
Anthony De Casper, at the Univ. of North Carolina, did elaborate studies that showed babies even develop a preference for certain sounds before they are born. He devised a nipple attached to an audio cassette player. If the baby sucked in a pattern of long sucks one tape would play and if the baby took short sucks the other tape would play. The baby could choose the sounds it would hear. One tape played the mother's voice and the other tape played a strange woman's voice. Believe it or not, new born babies soon learn which method of sucking gave them the mother's voice, and that became their choice.
He asked 16 pregnant women to read the book, The Cat In The Hat, twice a day to their unborn fetus for the last six and a half weeks before birth. Then shortly after birth these babies were given the sucking test with their mother's voice on both tapes. But on one she is reading The Cat In The Hat. On the other she is reading another child's poem. The babies consistently preferred The Cat In The Hat.
The point is, babies do hear in their mother's womb, and they are affected by what they hear. All that Dr. Luke records about the environment of John and Jesus in their mother's womb is not irrelevant. He tells us of two expectant mother's who gave each other joy and comfort, and of an environment of song with Mary and Zechariah praising God. An atmosphere like this has a definite impact on babies in their mother's womb. The Bible would support the idea that it is never too soon to start influencing your baby by positive communication.
But all of this is pre-Christmas communication. On that first Christmas the Angel of the Lord was the first to speak a baby centered message. He said to the shepherds, "today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you." I checked other translations and sure enough this baby is said to have been born to them. The RSV puts it even stronger, "for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior." Now we know the Christ-child was born to Mary, but the angels message makes us wonder just whose baby was it? The angel of the Lord seems to be communicating that this baby is born to all who need a Savior. And if this is the case, every sinner who has ever lived and who ever will, has had a baby born to them. The shepherds were all males, yet they had a baby born to them.
There is no other baby in the history of humanity that is anything like this baby of Bethlehem. If He is everybody's baby, then the whole human race becomes potentially one family again in this baby. All were one in Adam, but that oneness was shattered, and the race became scattered and divided. But now in this baby, born to all, the only universal baby in history, all men become one again, and are related to the degree to which they relate to this baby. This baby becomes the basis for all men to be one family again. Anyone who receives this child as being born to them becomes a part of the family of God. This is baby power to the highest degree.
Jennifer Forsthoffer needed a bone marrow transplant to stay alive. Neither parent had the right tissue, and so all depended on the birth of another child. Seven months later Jennifer's brother Eric was born. He became the youngest donor in U.S. history. That new born baby became her savior. What Eric was to Jennifer, baby Jesus was to the whole human race. The salvation of man depended upon a perfect sacrifice for sin. The baby of Bethlehem was the only baby ever born who could supply that need, and be our Savior.
This is a great tool for witnessing. You can ask any person if they have ever had a baby born to them. If they say yes, you can ask if it made them related to every family on earth. When they question your sanity you can share how the baby of Bethlehem does just that when we receive Him as God's Gift to us. If they say no, you can point out again that the Babe of Bethlehem was born to all who need a Savior-to all who know they have sin they cannot conquer and wipe away-to all who face death with no assurance they can live forever. The Gospel can be communicated in such a baby centered way, and this is wonderful for almost everybody loves a baby. When they can see what the Christmas baby means to them, they can be moved to open their hearts and give Him room.
The value of baby centered communication is that it stimulates curiosity. Everybody wants to see the new baby. When the shepherds heard of the baby born in Bethlehem, their response was, lets go see, and they hurried off to see the baby. A baby is a wondrous thing. The miracle of birth is a miracle that science cannot erode. That is why a baby is such a great tool to led men to God. A baby forces men to be in touch with the mystery of life. The poet put it-
in a small child's eyes,
The ageless awe
in the Christmas skies;
The nameless joy
that fills the air,
The throngs that kneel
in praise and prayer...
These are the things
that make us know
That men may come
and men may go,
But none will
ever find a way
To banish Christ
from Christmas Day...
For with each child
there's born again
A Mystery that baffles men.
There have been billions of people who have lived on this planet. Millions never became toddlers. Millions never became teens or young singles. Millions never became middle aged or old. The one thing they all have had in common is that they were all babies. Babyhood is the most universal characteristic of mankind, and God's Son, the Saviour of mankind, was also a baby.
So tiny, soft and crying,
He hardly looked the part,
Of one sent by God Almighty
To change the human heart.
The wise men did not come to see a star, they came to see a baby. Nobody is truly wise nor do they grasp the essence of Christmas until they see it is histories greatest example of baby power. Next, let's look at-
II. BABY CENTERED CELEBRATION.
When people have a baby we congratulate them. They feel rewarded for their long wait, and they express their joy in some form of celebration. We have already noted that the first person to celebrate the Incarnation was John the Baptist. He leaped for joy even in his mother's womb. Mary soon got into the spirit and was singing, "My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." Then when Jesus was born the angels joined in the celebration, and we read in verses 13 and 14, "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly hosts appeared with the angel, praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest." There was celebration in heaven over this unique baby.
Then when the shepherds checked it out and found the baby, verse 20 says, "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen." Every being who saw the baby of Bethlehem was soon in a state of celebration. Today this celebration circles the entire globe.
Babies can touch people that may not be touched by anything else. Nancy Bingham, in Oklahoma, just ran into her neighbors house to make a phone call. While she was there she saw her car being driven away. Her baby was in the back seat sleeping. She was frantic, and then things even got worse. The news came on that Wolf Marker, the outlaw, had just escaped from the local prison. She screamed in despair for she feared she would never see her baby again. She and her husband had waited ten years for this baby. Nobody every prayed harder for a child, and now it was taken from them. The county roads were swarming with police, and neighbors were looking for the escaped convict.
Nancy just wept and prayed for hours, and as darkness fell, so did her hope. But then she heard a sound on the front porch. She ran to the door, and when she opened it there was her baby with this note attached, "I'm sorry, I didn't know your baby was in the car." This hardened criminal had risked getting caught to bring back her baby. She was so touched by his being touched by her baby, she began to hope he would get away. He didn't, but he revealed that even bad guys can be moved to compassion by a baby. Not all bad guys are as bad as Herod. Some cannot bear to hurt a baby. God made Christmas baby centered because baby power touches almost every human heart. Helen Steiner Rice put it-
God sent the little Christ Child
So man might understand
"That a little child shall lead them"
To that unknown "Promised Land". . .
For God in His great wisdom
Knew that men would rise to power
And forget His Holy Precepts
In their great triumphal hour. . .
He knew that they would question
And doubt the Holy Birth
And turn their time and talents
To the pleasures of this earth. . .
But every new discovery
Is an open avenue
To more and greater mysteries,
And man's search is never through. . .
For man can never fathom
The mysteries of the Lord.
Or understand His promise
Of a heavenly reward. . .
For no one but a little Child
With simple Faith and Love
Can lead man's straying footsteps
To higher Realms Above!
Christmas is a baby centered celebration because God used a baby to bring us back into fellowship with Himself. Molly Brooks wrote,
Christmas is love
tugging men back to God
with the powerful clasp of a
reaching out from a bed
Jesus is the only person in history who chose to be a baby. No other baby ever had a choice. This tells us just how important the baby centeredness of Christmas is to Him. The message of Christmas is not that the angels came; that the shepherds came, or that the wise men came, but that the baby came. The baby that would make it possible for all men to become a part of the family of God, has come into the world. Thank God for this Christmas baby. "To those who receive Him, to them He gave the right to be called the children of God." Take Jesus as your Savior and you have eternal life as part of God's family. That is the ultimate in baby power, and it can be yours through this Christmas baby.