Soloists Frederica von Stade and Kathleen Battle
An old Christmas poem.
In our own time, it is the most ordinary of events: a woman conceives a child out of wedlock. But in this case - and perhaps less ordinary in any age - the man does the right thing and marries her. It is not inconceivable that he delivered the baby. And now we have a family. Strange portents surround the event, some of a miraculous beauty, others not so. The ruling regime - strangely in thrall to divine prophecy but not, apparently, to its divine origin - thought the child so important that he had to be killed, and a lot of babies died in the attempt. (Imagine that, taking a baby as a threat to one's place in the world.) The child would grow up to be a preacher, but as one "having authority." (So he was a threat). He would would demand repentance, tongue-lash the hypocrites, lash literally the moneychangers, and ask us to do outrageously counter-intuitive, and possibly stupid, things, such as loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, and doing good to those who hate us; to prove his authority to the authorities, he also healed the sick the blind and the lame. He even raised a dead man. He called his followers "Little children," and asked that they "love one another, as I have loved you." In the end the authorities killed him for it, for all of it, finishing off what Herod could not. His mother watched it all and stood with him to the last. An old man had told her a long time ago that this day would come.
From the outside, it might seem that the point of the story is one of love's futility. Look where it gets you. By the world's standards this will always be so to some degree. But that knowledge, that fact, won't get me up in the morning. What gets me up is knowing that the divine impulse behind creation is Love. Yet even that is too abstract. Rather I should say that I know it because I can look at another human being and see a miracle rather than a means to an end; and I can do that because the Word who spoke the world into being was born of a woman. It all began with a family. That's what gets me up, because I have one too. So I think tonight I'll just thank my wife for choosing to begin with me, and to finish. And my kids - though they had no choice in the association - for the same, for never withdrawing from their parents' love, an outcome, these days, for which one has cause to be grateful. My family lives in a decent house, but it was a family in humbler circumstances that helped the world regain its balance. Tonight I will not be so much of the world that I can't thank a baby for what I owe Him.