My little granddaughter, sixteen-month-old Clara Mae, quietly approaches the Nativity scene in the farm house living room. She gently carries away the tiny fabric basket holding the sleeping baby. Laying him softly on the nearby carpet, she lies down beside the baby, and closes her eyes.
Shhh! All is quiet.
Nana and I glow inwardly. Our little darling knows there’s something special about this little fabric baby, surrounded by a mama, daddy, animals and wise men. But we suspect she hasn’t quite figured out the remarkable story that her parents and grandparents embrace:
- That the tiny baby in the Nativity scene is the image of the Creator, returning to redeem and claim his fallen creation…
- That he comes to say “Mine” of each thing that exists, and especially of each person…
- That he comes to reconcile to himself all things in earth and heaven, making peace by his own human blood.
And if ever there was a time we needed Someone good, wise and kind to bring reconciliation to a desperate world, it’s now, isn’t it? Of course, people have felt this at all times. War, disease, famine and injustice are the stuff of every age. Yet the powerful engines of the twentieth century added to these ills unprecedented scale, with global suffering to match.
Was it possible that the new century could be any worse?
We now know the dreadful truth: The engines of our own making have permitted us to abuse and consume this beautiful sphere at unimaginable speed. Our Creator designed it to sustain us and countless others of His creatures. We learn that He made us to be His tenants and stewards. But we deluded ourselves into believing that we were the rightful owners, free to do what we want with what is Ours.
But it’s not Ours.
That tiny Baby has come to say “Mine” of all things, including us. Seven billion of us, clinging to the narrowest of margins on this fragile sphere. And increasingly, we face the consequences of cumulative human exploitation: floods, drought, famine, and desperate human migration as the natural systems around us falter under our heavy hand.
The future of our home is no longer a matter of distant speculation. We have already choked the atmosphere with 40 percent more earth-warming gases than at any time in the last million years. And our country and world show little resolve to alter this disastrous course of conduct. Before my little granddaughter is out of college, business-as-usual will leave us with an increasingly unrecognizable planet. Unless we change things now, we will have pumped enough carbon into the precious air to assure that global temperatures will increase by another 3-4 degrees F. Ice sheets will continue to melt; sea levels will inexorably continue to rise; more life-giving rivers will run dry; and even more farmlands will wither under a new, hotter climate. And -- unless we act very soon -- it will be irreversible for millennia.
And so now, Child of Bethlehem, your world desperately longs for you to come and reclaim what is Yours. Oceans, river systems, islands, glaciers, forests, farmlands – and the living creatures who depend on them – we all wait to hear the holy claim: Mine! And even we, your traitorous tenants, we who have seized and disfigured what you made – we look to you to reclaim us again in mercy as your own faithful possession.
To some, you look like a powerless baby in a fabric basket. But to we who embrace this most improbable of all stories, you are the coming King who reconciles all things to yourself.
In the enduring hope of the Advent…