A stone manger, possibly similar to Jesus’ first resting place

Every child born changes the entire world.

Whether eagerly longed for or dreaded, male or female, impoverished or ultra-wealthy, every child changes the world.

Whether loaded with physical and mental challenges or worry-free healthy, a musical prodigy or profoundly tone-deaf, hair sunny-silky light or wildly curly/kinky dark, skin glorious ebony-rich to albino-like pale, every child changes the world.

Whether left or right-handed, born already reading philosophy or never able to read even one word, oldest or youngest or in a middle position–no matter the characteristics or circumstances, every single child born changes the entire world.

Think about it:  no family dynamic is ever the same after the entry of a child. As families change, so do systems the family impacts. The products purchased change, touching local and far-flung merchants.  More laundry, less neatness; less sleep, more irritation, more doctor’s visits, fewer child-free entertainment options.  More child-safe items, fewer breakables. Everything changes.

Some changes are small, and barely noticed.  Others become history-recorded legends.

Some babies grow up to massacre innocent children; others grow up to offer their lives for the good of many.

We never know which it will be when we take the risk to bear and rear children.  There are no assurances in the world of child-bearing, despite pre-natal screening, genetic testing, or even seeking control by purchasing the “perfect” sperm or egg donor.

Bringing life into this world is a venture ALWAYS fraught with risk.

Anyone wishing to live a perfectly safe, controlled, unsurprising, grief-free, never ruffled life should never, ever consider having a child.  Ever.

Furthermore, anyone who thinks their own offspring can be kept perfectly safe from harm and horror lives in a world of sad delusion.

Despite our best efforts to keep our children safe, other parents’ children may bring the worst of deaths to them and the worst of agony to their families.

Each adult was at some point a baby.  Each of our births also changed the entire world.  Some of us have changed the world for the better, others for less than better, but none has been a neutral force.  It cannot be.

We live in a world full of passionate love, messy brokenness, anguish, hurt, pain, longing, hope, connection, and separation.

It is from broken, messy people that the Redeemer of the world emerged, whose birth we celebrate this time of the year.  It is also from this broken, messy world that the murderer of the innocents last week was born.

Both chose death, one so that he might bring others down with him into his own writhing darkness, the other so that he might bring others with him into the light of freedom.

A huge gulf separates the two.  But both changed the world, and both changed it irrevocably.

Most of us fit somewhere in between those two polarities. We are neither so evil and bent on destruction as the one nor so holy and determined on redemption as the other.  But we all still change the world irrevocably by our choices, and by our responses to those who offer life and to those who offer death.

Why don’t we try something this year in which grief seems to be tainting celebrations?  Why doesn’t every single person who acknowledges this ancient birth story find some Christmas service somewhere, no matter where you travel or live? Spend one to two hours, out of the multiplicity of hours that will be spent in travel, shopping, cooking, wrapping, feasting, opening and returning, just one or two hours in worship somewhere.  One or two hours, being still, contemplating both a world that needs a redeemer and the possibility of such a one actually showing up.

That act, too, will change the world.