E-Letter 185

Posted by on Jan 2, 2015 in Devotions | 0 comments

Epiphany, 2015

I close 2014 with a trip to the Newton Medical Center to arrange a hands-on, real life, in your throat experience of new creation at the hospital’s birthcare center for our young confirmands. A routine administrative detail, I think, that will make my schedule so much smoother once the calendar turns at the stroke of midnight. Nail down the particulars of my calendar so that I won’t have to scurry about working out last-minute details!  And in my hustling and bustling and planning and arranging and re-arranging, this conversation with the head nurse of the birthcare center:

“Are you looking for a long-term project for your church?” Nurse Susan asks. I am so weary after the demands of the week, including Christmas Eve services that stretched into the wee hours of Christmas morning, that I briefly consider shrugging my shoulders in silence, but then I notice her desperate eyes.  “What do you have in mind?” I ask.


“Well, do you have a group that likes to sew?” she wonders. I nod my head as she rummages through some plastic storage bins stacked in the corner of her crowded office. She pulls out of the bottom bin a pair of the tiniest blue booties, a knitted cap the size of my fist, and a crocheted blanket outlined with exquisite blue scallops. “I need little hospital gowns to put on the babies who do not survive. I’ve got enough booties and blankets because I guess people can knit during all those boring church meetings, but I don’t have any gowns.  Do you think you can sew some gowns, maybe put some beautiful lace around the neck, so that we can put them on the babies and photograph them so that parents can remember their babies?” she inquires with such hope.

A wave of sorrow washes over me, catching me in the low mournful tones of its undertow.  I try to imagine Nurse Susan ministering to these grieving young adults as they travel through such unspeakable loss. 

“I know some wonderful women who can do this.  Do you need anything else?” I ask out of sheer helplessness. She reaches back into her stack of bins and pulls out a stuffed toy lamb that fits into the palm of my hand. “Soft stuffed animals like this little lamb and decorated cardboard boxes like this one,” she responds as she points to a tower of pastel-colored boxes that hold photographs. I am truly perplexed. 

“What do you need the boxes for?” I ask.  Nurse Susan’s head drops as she whispers, “To put the babies in so that the parents can take them home.” 

The New Year begins with a group of star-gazers, astrologers whom the evangelist Matthew describes as Wise Ones, travelling for several years at great risk through godforsaken back country in search of the newborn King of the Jews. I marvel at their persistence, the consuming desire that compels them to forego everything – plans, obligations, family, work, friendship – to follow an impulse, really, that hints at satisfying their thirst for God. Matthew begins his story of Emmanuel, God-with-us, by wrapping us in the mysterious tale of the pull of a baby. May we join these Wise Ones and other seekers in their journey to Bethlehem:

Carol of the Seekers

We have not come like Eastern kings

With gifts upon the pommel lying.

Our hands are empty, and we came

Because we heard a baby crying.

We have  not come like questing knights

With fiery swords and banners flying.

We heard a call and hurried here – 

The call was like a baby crying.

But we have come with open hearts

From places where the torch is dying.

We seek a manger and a cross

Because we heard a baby crying.

– Philip Britts