Two thousand years ago, a child was born and it was a miracle. The child was Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God; born of a virgin, who came to bring salvation to all mankind. Make no mistake; it was a miracle and of epic proportions, but beyond what most of us have considered the real miracle to be.
Christ was born in a dung scattered, insect infested stable and swaddled in the torn strips of what clothing was available; that of his journey-weary parents, which was certainly not sterile and surely sweat laded and then lain in a manger; a feeding trough for livestock that must have contained no end of salivate bacteriological cultures, partially eaten and rotting food and grain-stuffs and God only knows- no pun intended- what else.
At a time when child mortality rates must have been astronomical, that the baby Jesus survived his first forty-eight hours, much less the following thirty-three years is a miracle similar in scale to the salvation he brought to the world. It is the miraculous birth of a child that we celebrate at Christmas and it is the life and sacrifice associated with that birth that make the celebration so heartwarming.
In March of 2007, my stepson and daughter-in-law delivered to us the happy news that she was pregnant with twins. Adam and Stacey had been trying unsuccessfully to have children for some time, had resorted to expensive invitro-fertilization treatments and at long last, after several costly fits and starts were going to have a family. But, the pregnancy was tenuous and difficult from the beginning and Stacey was finally confined to her bed.
“If we can get you to the seventh month,” the doctors told her, “then your babies will be just fine. They will be premature and small and may have health problems, but we think we will be able to save them.”
Early in her sixth month of pregnancy, Stacey began to experience labor pains. The doctors tried everything but could not stop the fateful process. Fetal monitors told the awful story… the twins were dying. Stacey would be forced to endure the terrible rigors of child labor only to deliver twin baby girls whom had already succumbed to death. Their names, Peyton and Madison were dutifully inscribed onto their little headstones.
But, there was another and more terrible price to pay. The pregnancy had been so physically taxing, Stacey’s kidneys had been irrevocably damaged beyond repair and a second pregnancy, even if it were possible, would mean almost certain death for her. My stepson and his lovely young wife were crushed.
My stepson has a friend named big Dave. Big Dave and Adam have been friends since high school. Dave is about six-foot-eight and weighs in the neighborhood of 350lbs. His nickname from his youth to those who know him intimately is, ‘Baby Huey.’ But, I can tell you, if you’re not a friend, a close intimate friend, you better not call him that unless you are smiling, and probably not even then. I just call him ‘Sir.’
Anyway, big Dave married a charming little girl named Taryn and the two of them set off in a cloud of marital bliss to have a family. Through the years Dave and Adam and Stacey and Taryn have remained close friends. Evidently Taryn’s sister was having some difficulties getting pregnant and Taryn had decided to serve as a surrogate for her. In the course of events, as so often happens, her sister eventually got pregnant without any help but that left Taryn with a secret incomplete longing. One day, about 16 months ago, as she and her husband were driving home from church, Taryn was unusually quiet. Big Dave was a little nervous. He wondered if he was in trouble, if he had done something wrong? Taryn is just a little spit-switch of a girl but it made him nervous all the same.
“Anything wrong?” He asked her as he drove the meandering road home.
“No, not really…” her voice trailed off as the open countryside rushed by her window.
Dave studied his wife long and hard and why it came to him, he didn’t know.
“You want to carry Stacey’s baby, don’t you?”
Taryn looked at her husband. “Yes, “ she said, “would you mind?”
Dave took in a heavy sigh and let it out slowly. “No,” he replied, “but, let’s talk it over with our families first and then we better pray about it.”
Dave and Taryn’s families were in complete agreement with her decision. They were nervous but they agreed it was the right thing to do. Dave and Taryn prayed about it and then they decided.
Taryn was impregnated with three of Stacey’s fertilized eggs in the hopes that one would ‘take.’ As so often happens in this crazy world, all three ‘took’ and eight months later Taryn gave birth to three healthy children: two boys and a girl, named Jake, Luke and Sofia. It was a springtime in April, Christmas miracle!
Sofia, Luke and Jake did not come into the world to forgive sin or to be Messiah’s, the saviors of mankind; but they have miraculously saved a couple, delivered a family who have suffered terribly under the weight and yoke of oppressive loss, sorrow and grief, from a lifetime of torment and loneliness. Oh yeah, and Taryn and her husband and their children- but mostly Taryn- performed this stunning miracle, this unimaginable sacrifice out of the goodness and charity of their hearts: all for free. Free. No charge. Think about that for a moment… if there was ever a more accurate definition of love and sacrifice, I don’t know what it might be. Any fool can give his life up for something, but it’s altogether a different dedication and mindset to give life and to give it with no strings or charges attached.
Are you like me? Do crying babies absolutely reduce every last nerve in your body to jangles? Oh boy! I’m not good with babies. A couple of years ago, I wrote a Christmas piece entitled, “The Grinch” 1) in which I pointed out that mostly, all a child has to do is look at me and then they start shrieking and you know what? It’s true! And, my triplet grandchildren are no different. None of them likes me. They all begin to scream and absolutely tremble with fear and terror the very moment they are laid in my arms. And, normally, that would be enough for me. After all, I am affectionately called, “Grandpa Crabby” and I am, too. I do okay with children. I mean what’s not to like? Tea time with Grandpa; funny story time or board games with grandpa; fishing with grandpa; teaching them how to spit and scratch, all the things that simply appall their parents but amuse me no end, that’s my job! But, babies? Oh, let’s not and just say we did, okay?
This year Adam and Stacey and the triplets are going to be in our home for the baby’s first Christmas and since there is almost no place in the house they can go and not look at me, I’m sure that baby Sofia, Luke and Jake are going to have a screaming, shrieking, fit throwing marathon and as I pointed out earlier, that would normally immediately set my teeth to grinding and fray my nerves beyond all recognition, but not this year. This year, though I have no filthy stable or soiled swaddling clothes or germ infested manger; though I am not a Wiseman and don’t really know any, I am going to be smiling all the way through all the crying and pooping and shrieking and general gnashing of teeth because those children are a sincere and genuine Christmas miracle. I am also going to be thinking of Taryn and big Dave and their kids and a springtime Christmas miracle… and I am going to be thankful in my heart.
It is the birth of a child that gives us cause to celebrate at Christmas, and it is life and sacrifice that make birth significant. Our everyday life isn’t much different. This life, my life, theirs and yours is pretty much the same when it comes to celebrating birth. But, I do have something in common with a guy named Joseph. Like Joseph, I didn’t have a whole lot to do with any of the story I have told you- actually, as a stepfather I had nothing to do with it- but, I am still blessed by it; it remains a gift even to me and I am going to have things to teach my three grandchildren, and I will too!
Merry Christmas to you all!
My Dear Readers- my book, A DogHouse Manifesto, is now available for purchase and is listed by title at PublishAmerica.com, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and other fine book-sellers worldwide.
A DogHouse Manifesto © by Mitchell L. Peterson.
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