(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the LORD to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the LORD has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
I have a confession about newborn babies.
Truthfully, I don't think they look very human. They all look like they were sired by space aliens. They have little flat faces, little cone heads, little "stork bites" on their face, many are rather bald, and their heads are too big for their bodies. Their arms and legs are too long and gangly. They're red and noisy. It's hard to believe they even fit in that uterus they were in.
Even as a kid, when the grownups would ooo and ahhh over newborns, I didn't get it. Really, I was pretty sure a lot of them were faking it. My grandmother as much said so. She told me once, "Really, newborns are not all that cute--but they are beautiful to their mothers, and that's all that matters, so it's not really lying when you tell people their newborn is cute."
But I knew that wasn't exactly accurate either. Everyone in my family loved to tell the story of when I was born, and even the doctor who delivered me, our beloved Dr. Rex, who delivered a lot of babies in my home town, told this story. The story was that the first thing my mom said when Dr. Rex showed me to her was, "My God, she looks like a monkey." Dr. Rex's reply was, "Well, Jesus Christ, all newborns look that way!" I was pretty sure that really, newborns were not all that cute, but they were, as my granny said, beautiful in a different way.
My rotations on Obstetrics and Pediatrics during my training years didn't help much with this. Newborn babies become an "object" in which docs and docs-in-training are supposed to "do something with." Something that needed to be delivered, Apgar-ed, admitted, and charted.
But what always took me back to reality about newborns was their tiny little hands and feet.
Newborn hands and feet always look very, very human. Better than human, in fact. Baby feet don't have firm pads or callouses yet. Baby hands are not scarred or sun-damaged. They're soft and perfect.
I always felt a special pang of remorse for babies who had limb defects that damaged the hands or feet. They seemed to have been robbed of the most recognizable part of their humanity.
But what I used to love on my clinical rotations involving newborns was simply holding them and examining their tiny feet and hands, and holding them in my own scarred hands. They were so warm, soft, and innocent. I could become lost in those moments for long periods of time--long enough to forget to do my chart work.
Christmas Day for me is not exactly like the TV specials and movies. After all, I live alone. My immediate family is small, and my personality is such I never really enter in too far in "ordinary family life." I feel often that it is their time, not mine, and I am a bit of an interloper. I usually spend Christmas these days with a family in town who is famous for having a wonderful collection of "Christmas orphans" at their table. It is the best deal for me, because I don't have to be the only one at the table with no spouse, no children.
But in the last few years, I have come to appreciate the quiet time I have on Christmas morning before I enter in, socially. I get on Facebook and wish all of my friends Merry Christmas who posted Christmas greetings in their status update. I truly love it. I feel like Scrooge coming out from his funk when I do that!
Mostly, though, I sit quietly with Scripture and my thoughts, and play with the tiny hands and feet of the Christ Child. It has become a wonderful bonding moment for me with God. To think about the innocence of those tiny hands and feet, to feel the presence of God in a weary world, to bask in this holy, innocent moment that transcends all the pain and suffering of the world I know, is the greatest Christmas gift for me of all.
My Christmas wish for each of you is to have some time where you can merely sit and hold the newborn Christ and play with his perfect little hands and feet. Merry Christmas!