Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, approximately 353,000 babies will be born worldwide, at the rate of one baby every 4.3 second. In one hour of a Christmas Eve service, 15,300 babies will be born while we sing about good news of great joy. Much like our Christmas story, babies come into the world in some of the strangest places. Many women will give birth in transit to the hospital, doing something they had to do in normal life, like Mary and Joseph going to register for the census. Several dozen babies will be born in cars, with taxi drivers as midwives, and someone who gives birth in a Volkswagen will name their baby girl “Jetta.” If you really hate holiday flights, just remember that somewhere out there a woman is going into labor on Jet Blue, wishing she had the roomy comfort of a manger. I can imagine the flight attendant shouting out “Be not afraid. Any business class passenger willing to give up their seat will receive 1000 frequent flyer miles and a complimentary Jet Blue gift bag.”
Sonia Marino stopped by a post office in England to buy a mobile phone credit – She went into labor and gave birth to a baby girl right there. The post-master, who acted as midwife, put the baby on the scales and declared she weighed 8 pounds and 2 ounces, then put an Express Mail sticker on the baby’s forehead and said, “That will be five quid, and 50 pence please.” Some births are truly harrowing. Sofia Pedro climbed a tree to escape the floodwaters in Mozambique, Africa. The brave mom held onto branches as she delivered her baby Rosita. A few minutes later, they were rescued by a South African helicopter crew, umbilical cord still attached.
Every family likes to tell birth stories, whether it is a common story or a great adventure, looking for signs of meaning and hope for the future, things to pass along the child as they grow up so they know where they came from. Something I like about these stories is the ordinary heroes who are unexpectedly midwives, having neither the training or resources to help, but manage to step up anyway. When these little angels are ready to burst forth into the world with their shouts of good news and great joy, most of us are like the shepherds, doing are job, and suddenly called to witness a miracle. It is part of being a decent human being, you can’t just walk away and say, I’m not competent, I’m not trained, I don’t like the site of blood, or I’m really busy today, I have presents to buy. You stop, grab a hand and say, “Be not afraid, and push.”
It may be a cliché to say, “It takes a village.” I have a good birth story from our neighborhood. Our neighbor, a single woman who is 38 years-old, decided about a year ago it was her time to have a baby. Just because the timing of a husband was not working, she was not going to miss the opportunity. We are a neighborhood with front porches and lots of dog owners who walk twice a day, and lots of gardeners, so we know each other and talk a lot. Our neighborhood is full of empty nesters who are not yet grandparents, and have eagerly offered support. I also realized we have 4 sets of adoptive parents on the block, who couldn’t have biological children. One family offered to take her dog for a week while she gave birth, and the family across the street organized a “gender-reveal” party. Have you been to one of those yet? The doctor puts the gender of the child in an envelope, and the party sponsor then orders a cake, pink for girls and blue for boys, I know a little traditional and gender specific, and the whole neighborhood finds out whether the baby is a boy or a girl when we cut the cake. A generation ago, this might have been discouraged, how could she do this without a husband, but it restores my faith that a neighborhood is rallying around her, and most of us are putting down roots in this neighborhood and will likely watch this child grow up. And he will have a great story to tell his whole life.
All of the 353,000 babies born tomorrow deserve a good story. Whether they are born in a hospital or refugee camp on the Syrian border, whether they have health insurance or not, whether they are born among Christians, Jews, Muslims or fill in the blank; Red State babies, Blue State babies all need the same things. We have a common hope for all them, for babies in Flint, Michigan and rural West Virginia, we hope they will have clean drinking water when they are weaned from their mother’s breast, we hope all babies will have a sustainable planet to live on. Unto all of us are these children born. You are the shepherds and taxi drivers, the innkeepers and flight attendants, the wise men and the post masters, who are called to be midwives, so the babies born on this night will have great stories to tell. Be not afraid.