Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rachel's Children (12/30/07)

Rachel’s Children
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

December 30th, 2007
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”    Matthew 2:1-23

After the New Year we begin our quest to read the Bible cover to cover.  I have been helped along the way by those who have provided a way to read and to help me find renewed appreciation for the texts of the Bible and of the Christian tradition and of other spiritual traditions. 

One of my guides has been scholar Marcus Borg.  He has told the story of his spiritual journey in his various books and articles.   We just finished one of his books, The Heart of Christianity, in our Thursday study group.

Borg grew up in the Lutheran church in North Dakota.  His early experience of faith was like mine and possibly yours.  In this period, he read the Bible with what he calls pre-critical naiveté.     He didn’t question the stories as to their historical validity.   He accepted them as written.   Noah really did put all the animals on the ark, two by two.  Jesus did walk on water and was born of a virgin and so forth.  

With pre-critical naiveté we see Matthew’s story of the magi following the star and Herod killing the innocents and the great escape of the Holy Family as something that happened. 

Later in life, he went through a period of critical thinking about the Bible.  He recognized that the Bible was a human work.  He put the tools of historical and literary analysis to the texts.   This analysis showed that the stories of the Bible were compiled over long periods of time.   They borrowed their legends from other sources.   You could call this a period of deconstruction.   The stories of the Bible and Jesus were likely not historical but legendary.  I also had this experience, perhaps you have as well.  

With deconstruction, we recognize that Matthew’s story is not historical.  The story of Herod killing all male babies under two in an attempt to get to Jesus is a retelling of the story in the first chapters of Exodus where Pharaoh kills all the male children in order to get to Moses.  Pharaoh fails and well as Herod in getting the promised child.   These stories as well as the magi and the gifts and the star are themes drawn from the Hebrew scriptures.   

Deconstruction tells us it didn’t happen.   The birth stories, to put it bluntly, are fictions.  While that is true enough from an historical perspective, it can leave one rather, well, deconstructed. 

Marcus Borg tells us of a third step.  He calls this move post-critical naiveté.   From this standpoint one recognizes the legendary quality of the stories, but then asks, “Why are they here?  What is their truth?  What do they mean?”

Rather than stop at deconstruction, by dismissing the story as a fiction and not worth our time, post-critical naiveté enters the story as story and invites the story to provide a critique of the self.   

Post-critical naiveté asks what this story tells us about life, about the world, about whatever it is we call God and about ourselves.   We enter the story to seek a word of truth for us. 

We don’t ignore deconstruction.  In fact we continue to use the best critical tools at our disposal to try to discover the context of these texts and why they were written.   Yet we also move to the next step.   We put ourselves in the position of the characters. 

The infancy narrative in Matthew is the Gospel of Matthew in miniature.  Jesus is presented as the new Moses.   The same forces at work to thwart the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery by Pharaoh are at work in Herod.   The good news from Matthew’s viewpoint is that God finds a way.  

In their latest book, The First Christmas, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan write that any first century hearer of this story would know the connection between Herod and Pharaoh.   Borg and Crossan write that the story could be put into a headline that reads:

Evildoer Kills All Male Children Under Two:  Chosen Child Escapes

This is the story that is repeated throughout literature.  It is the story of the hero.  It is an archetypal story.  The hero has a divine blessing, a guardian angel.   From Moses to Homer’s Ulysses to the legends of King Arthur to Star Wars we find this theme.   The chosen one is protected, guided, and escapes at the last minute so that he or she can complete the larger mission to save the people. 

The story did not happen.  It always happens (at least in storytelling).   

The story of the hero is told by the vantage point of time.  The hero doesn’t know she or he is a hero.   At the moment in these stories they are as confused as anyone.  The storytellers know and the hearers know.   The storytellers look back and say, “See, the hand of Divine Providence was in it all of the time.”   In the case of Matthew’s Gospel, the author uses the tool of prophecy.   Matthew in his infancy account uses the prophetic technique five times.  

Matthew writes the gospel to inspire and empower those in his time to trust.    This story will repeat again, and you will be the hero.   At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is on the mountain and he says to his disciples, “Go into the world, make disciples of all nations, and remember that I am with you until the end.”   Jesus is assuring them that they are not on their own; Divine Providence is with them.

The hero’s story is one in which the Divine must be present.  No hero completes the quest without the blessing of the Fates, or the Force, or God, or Goddess or something.   In the Christian story, Christ. 

The hero does not choose to be a hero.  The hero is chosen.  The hero is not chosen for special status but for service.  This service will require of the hero great sacrifice.   Jesus goes to the cross to demonstrate the way of the hero. 

In addition to Divine blessing, the hero must also have some characteristics.  The hero must be courageous, compassionate, trustworthy and pure of heart.  Above all, the hero must have integrity.    

The hero goes through tests.  Jesus goes into the Wilderness for forty days and nights to be tested.   The hero must always be ready to look at herself to see if her motives are pure.   The hero must be honest.  The hero must take an inventory of herself. 

In Matthew’s Gospel the Sermon on the Mount, particularly the Beatitudes describe the characteristics of the hero:

Blessed are the pure in heart.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are the meek.
Blessed are you when you are accused falsely.

And so on…

Matthew’s Gospel could be called The Making of Heroes.  In Matthew’s Gospel, the disciples of Jesus are called, chosen, to be heroes.   For Christians, baptism is the sign or the symbol of being chosen by God for the task of heroism.  

And you thought it was just about getting into heaven when you die.   Baptism is the sign of the call to demonstrate the realm of God on Earth. 

The tragic flaw of the villain in these stories is that the villain wants to be the hero, but the villain’s heart is not pure.  The villain has a hardened heart.   In many of these heroic tales, the villain starts out as chosen and has all the characteristics of the hero:  strong, courageous, intelligent, but lacks the purity of heart.   The villain wants to control events rather than be guided by Divine Providence.

When the hero becomes Herod, all kinds of bad things happen.   Rachel weeps for her children, for they are no more.  When the hero becomes Herod, cruelty reigns.   The strange thing is that in Herod’s mind, he is doing what needs to be done.   How many leaders have killed the innocent for a cause? 

Our world is filled with the blood of innocents who are the collateral damage for those who want to make the world in their image.  

When we enter this story of the birth of Jesus, this heroic story, we are asked by the story itself, if we are going to be the hero or Herod?   That question calls us to look inward.  Do we have purity of heart?  Are we concerned more with controlling events or by trusting and being guided by that which is good?   That is why taking that inventory of self is so crucial on a regular basis.  We must look within to name and to ask God to remove all defects of character.  

I have heard that we live in an age without heroes.  That could be. 

It also could be that each of us is being called to the heroic quest. 

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Light Shines in the Darkness (12/24/07 Christmas Eve)

The Light Shines in the Darkness
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee
Christmas Eve 2007

It makes sense why the church chose the Winter Solstice to celebrate the birth of Christ.  At the darkest time of the year the light shines.   Only when it is the darkest are we open to see the light.  

At Christmas, many folks go all out with huge Christmas displays with lights and lights and lights.   It is fun, colorful, and celebratory.   Some homes, businesses, and Christmas theme parks are so lit up that it feels like daytime. 

But I think that the light that shines in the darkness that we hear announced in the gospels is light of a different sort. 

The light that shines in the darkness is not an overwhelming light.  It is not a ten thousand megawatt super spotlight that obliterates the darkness.   The light that shines in the darkness is more like the faint glimmer of a single candle.   It is a light so tiny that it can be noticed only in the darkest times.    It needs the darkness in order to be seen.     

Christianity has struggled with power throughout its history.   Often it has thought that bearing witness to the light was to be a big light itself.   If it was successful, bright, and in control, it would shine with the light of Christ, who conquered the world. 

Yet the church has been reminded by its prophets that the big powerful light is not the way Christ reveals the Divine presence.     The narratives of the birth of Jesus show us a very small light.  This light is revealed to a young woman in the middle of nowhere who is shocked that God would choose her.   This light is presented to subsistence living shepherds who cannot fathom that they would be the ones to tell the story. 

It is a light in the eyes of an infant in a feeding trough for livestock.   The Christmas story is a humble story.   The light comes to those who have nothing to offer, or so they think.  The light is not overbearing.   It is a glimmer of promise in a dark time.  

Matthew’s gospel is the story of a narrow escape.  It is the story of the foiling of Herod which is a retelling of the story of the foiling of Pharaoh.  It could be summed up with this headline: 

Evildoer Kills All Male Children Two Years and Under:  Chosen Child Escapes.

Luke’s gospel is the story of a reversal.  Augustus Caesar, the ruler of the known world, considered to be the Son of God, uses his muscle to push people around.   He likes to throw parties for himself.  Luke’s story could be summed up with this headline:

The Ruler of the World Plans a Big Celebration:   God Parties with Shepherds Instead

In these birth stories of Jesus we find the light in the places that the Herods and the Caesars and the powerful and the successful and the bright and the beautiful do not look.   As we know if we are honest, it is only in the darkest moments, only when we have hit the bottom, only when we realize we cannot do it on our own, that we can see the true light that is the light of the world.  It is the light of a single candle.   And it is all we need.

I am going to share a story with you that I read in the newspaper the other day.   It is a great story and it gave me a sense of hope for our world.  When we turn on the television, radio, or computer to get the news, we discover that the international situation is desperate as usual. 

We wonder what is going to happen.  What is this world coming to?  We may wonder if anyone is paying attention.  We wonder what we can do at all.   You may think this story I am about to share is sentimental, or of little account.   This little light is far too small for the dark world whose situation is desperate as usual.  

I find this story important because it shows people overcoming their cynicism, overcoming their own feeling of powerlessness, and overcoming their self-evaluation as not very creative.   These folks surprised themselves. 

It is the story of a church.  The Federated Church of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.   Their minister, Rev. Hamilton Throckmorton came up with a sinister scheme.  This sinister minister decided to give each member of his congregation $50.   It is a pretty good-sized church, about 1700 members.  

Apparently, several anonymous folks had loaned a total of $40,000 to the church for this plan.   Each member was given $50 and each child received $10.   On the day the sinister minister passed out the cash, he preached a sermon on the parable of the talents.   In this parable, a landowner entrusts three servants to a sum of money different for each.  One who is given five talents makes five more.  One who is given two talents makes two more and one who is given one buries it and returns the one.  The landowner praises the two who made more money with their talents he has harsher words for the one who buries his talent.  

Those who have ears let them hear.

So Rev. Throckmorton decided to put this parable into action.   Everyone received $50 with the instruction to use their talents, skill, and creativity to double that amount within seven weeks with the proceeds to go for church mission projects.   There was an out.  Folks could return the money if they didn’t want to play. 

There was grumbling and uncertainty at first.

In her regular pew at the back of the church, where she had listened to sermons fro 40 years, 73- year old Barbara Gates gasped.  What kind of kooky nonsense is this, she thought.

“Sheer madness,” sniffed retired accountant Wayne Albers, 85, to his wife, Marnie, who hushed him as he whispered loudly.  “Why can’t the church just collect money the old-fashioned way?”

Folks were doubtful, thinking they were being pushed a little too hard.   But as the time went on, a few found some ideas.

A retired Navy pilot, Hal, enjoys flying his four-seater Cessna.  He used his $50 to rent air time from the airport and charge $30 for half-hour rides.  Church members eagerly signed up.  Hal raised $700 and got in some flying time.

Hal’s girlfriend, Kathy, was tempted to give the money back.  What talents do I have, she thought, dejectedly.  But she found an old family recipe for tomato soup, one she hadn’t made in 19 years.  She remembered how much she had enjoyed the chopping and the cooking and the canning and the smells.  She dug out her pots.  She bought three pecks of tomatoes.  Suddenly she was chopping and cooking and canning again.  At $5 a jar, she made $180. 

“I just never imagined people would pay money for the things I made,” she exclaimed. 

Others surprised themselves as well.  Barbara Gates, the 73-year old who thought the idea was kooky nonsense, raised $450 crafting pendants from beads and sea glass.

But it wasn’t just money.  It was something else.  For the seven weeks the church members felt an almost magical sense of excitement and energy and carmaraderie. 

Eighty-one year old Shirley Culbertson said she felt a joyful sense of purpose that she had rarely experienced since her husband passed away two years ago.  She knitted eight-inch stuffed dolls with button noses and floppy hats and raised $90.

One member offered twelve-mile rides on his Harley Davidson Road King.  The first person to sign up was Florence Cross, who is in her mid-80s.  She had never been on a bike.  Her friends now call her Harley Girl.

There was one story after another of people finding some skills they never thought they had.   One woman turned her kitchen into an applesauce factory.  Another woman took old flip-flops and with beads and yarn made dozens of funky, fluffy footware that were a huge hit with teens.   She raised over $550 dollars and is still taking orders.  She is thinking of starting a business.  Her children call her the flib-flop lady.

Others made birdfeeders, some stenciled portraits, shawls were knit, hot-air balloon rides were auctioned. 

When the seven weeks had arrived, on the designated service, people brought their proceeds into baskets and offered testimonials about what living the parable meant to them. 

The next week he reported the news that the initial take was over $38,000 with more to come.  The final sum will be divided between three projects:  one-third will go to a school library in South Africa where the church is involved in and AIDS mission; one-third will go to micro-loan organizations that provide seed money for small business is developing countries; one-third will help the Interfaith Hospitality Network in Cleveland, Ohio, specifically programs for homeless women.

But perhaps more important than even the money was the new friendships that were made, the creativity expressed, and the sense of accomplishment felt by those who did something that they didn’t think they could.  What will save us?  I don’t think it will be the big accomplishments and the big victories.  It will be the small things done by the many, following the light of creativity

The international situation is desperate as usual.   But I have hope for human beings.   I know that there is latent creativity within each of us, waiting for the time in which it will be needed.  There is a kindness deep within us that is stronger than our fear.  Creativity and kindness are gifts of God, the light of the world, and they will be our guide through the darkness. 

The light shines in the darkness.  And the darkness did not overcome it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Receiving the Child Within (12/23/07)

Receiving the Child Within
John Shuck
December 23, 2007

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
   and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
--Matthew 1:18-25

I thought I would start us off with a prayer.  This prayer is from the movie Taladega Nights:  The Saga of Ricky Bobby.  Ricky Bobby is a NASCAR racer.  And pretty successful.  In this scene he and the family, his wife their two sons, his friend Cal Jr. and his wife’s father are ready to sit down to a meal.  Tomorrow is a big race day.

Ricky Bobby prays:

Dear Lord Baby Jesus, or as our brothers in the south call you, HeyZeuss.    We thank you so much for this bountiful harvest of Dominos, KFC, and the always delicious Taco Bell.   I just wanna take time to say thank ya for my family.  My two beautiful, beautiful, handsome striking sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, or TR as we call him.  And of course my red hot smokin’ wife, Carly, who is a stone cold fox….I also want to thank you for my best friend and teammate Cal Jr. who’s got my back no matter what.  Dear Lord Baby Jesus, we also thank you for my wife’s father, Chip.   We hope you can use your Baby Jesus powers to heal him and his horrible leg.  It smells terrible and the dogs are always botherin’ with it.   Dear Tiny Infant Jesus, 

(At this point his prayer is interrupted by his wife who says, “Hey, you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up.  You don’t always have to call him ‘Baby’.  It’s a bit odd and off-puttin to pray to a baby.”) 

(Ricky says): 

I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace.   When you say grace you can say it to grown up Jesus or teenage Jesus or bearded Jesus or whoever you want.

You know what I want.  I want you to do this grace good, so that God will let us win tomorrow. 

Ricky prays again:  Dear Tiny Jesus:  your golden fleece diapers with your tiny little fat balled up fist…

(Grandpa interrupts:  He was a man and he had a beard)!

Look, says Ricky.  I like the baby version the best do you hear?   I win the races and I get the money!

(Carly says:  Ricky…finish the damn grace).

(Cal Jr. speaks:  I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt.  It says, “I want to be formal, but I’m here to party, too.   ‘Cause I like to party so I like my Jesus to party).

(Little Texas Walker speaks:  I like to picture Jesus as a Ninja, fightin’ off evil Samurai).

Cal Jr. again:  I like to think of Jesus with giant eagle’s wings and singing lead vocals for Lynyrd Sknyrd with like an angel band.  And I’m in the front row and I am hammered drunk).

(Carly speaks:  Hey Cal: why don’t you just shut up?)

Yes, ma’am.

(Ricky Bobby continues his prayer): 

Dear eight pound, six ounce, newborn infant Jesus, you don’t even know a word yet.  Just a little infant, so cuddly, yet still omnipotent.  We just thank you for all the races I have won and the 21 point 2 million dollars. 

(wooh, wooh, wooh, oww!)

Love that money!  That I have accrued over this past season.  Also due to a binding endorsement contract that stipulates that I mention Powerade at each grace, I just wanna say that Powerade is delicious, and it cools you off on a hot summer day.   We look forward to Powerade’s release of Mystic Mountain Blueberry.   Thank you for all your power and your grace, Dear Baby God.  Amen.

Amen.  Ummm. Let’s eat!

That was Ricky Bobby’s prayer from Talladega Nights.

I do hope I have not ruined your Christmas with that.   I know that a code of ethics for preachers is to do no harm, so if preachers can’t say something holy about Christmas, they shouldn’t say anything.

I want to defend Ricky Bobby and his prayer to the infant, baby Jesus. 

Christmas is larger than Easter at the popular level.  It is the biggest holiday of the year.  It celebrates among a number of things, the birth of a baby.   Now of course, the theologians will tell us that it just isn’t any baby, it is the Christ, the son of God, who came to save the world and grew up and possibly grew a beard and died and a cross.

We nod.  But we know what we like.  We like babies. 

I could probably get away with never having a sermon.   I could make worship an extended children’s sermon and folks would be happy.  When we have a children’s sermon and the kids are saying cute things and even when they are sitting there being children, staring…all of you light up.

Yea, bring in the babies. 

When a family is lighting the Advent candle, don’t try to pretend that you are paying attention to the liturgy and the significance of the candle.  You are watching the baby. 
I don’t criticize.  I do, too.

It is the baby, the child, the littler the better, who captures our hearts and gives us delight. 

Babies touch us.  There is something of the sacred of the divine about them.   In an excellent essay entitled “Honor the Child”, psychologist Marlene Winnell writes:

On the deepest level, the Child connects to matters of the soul. By this I mean essence – the way we actually experience being alive. This is not the Christ child or just a symbol of hope -- this is the Original Child that is in each of us. This is the Child we all know is still present but may be lost or buried. Our life patterns, our “personalities,” our many roles, our anxieties, our regrets, our plans, our endless thoughts, all conspire to distance us from who we once were – infants with magical capability for presence and joy.

Interestingly, in the spiritual Balinese culture, babies are not allowed to touch the ground for the first year of life. They are considered closer to God than adults. In any culture, one only needs to look into an infant’s eyes to see a being that is absolutely in the present, that has no agenda whatsoever, that is open to the simple miracle of being alive. This delight is pure and plain in a smile, a look, a wriggle of total energy. The ego has not emerged; there is just being. Worries about the past and concerns for the future do not exist; the moment is timeless, endless… infant joy of this kind is the natural, inevitable consequence of presence.

When Katy was just a little over a week old, (see here I am telling a baby story about my own grown-up daughter).  Anyway when Katy was about a week old, the three of us went to a Japanese restaurant.   The hostess scolded us a bit for bringing this baby out into the public. 

She said we never allow babies outside the home for one month. 

There is a sacredness a holiness about babies.  In spite of Christianity’s emphasis on original sin, we really don’t believe it. 

I heard a wonderful story about a girl about four or five.  Her parents gave her a little brother.  One night her parents watched her standing up over the crib, talking to her little baby brother.  This is what she said:  “Tell me what God is like.  I forgot.”

The child reminds us of the holy.  

There are many images of the sacred to be taken from the wealth of stories and traditions surrounding Christmas over the centuries.   Perhaps the most enduring is the image of the child, the sacred child, the Divine Child who delights us and calls us back to our true selves. 

As we grow older we forget who God is.  We forget the joy of presence.  We collect identities and agendas, guilt, shame, anxieties, desires, and blame.    It isn’t all simply negative of course.  We learn right and wrong, we learn to reason, to share, to care for others, and to care for ourselves.

But there is something to be said for honoring the child.   The child is vulnerable.  The child needs care.   The child is dependent.  We, too, ultimately, even though we try to pretend we are self-sufficient also are vulnerable and dependent.  We, too, need care. 

Inside of each of us is a child.  It is a child who has been hurt and who is frightened.   Psychologists remind us that our attitudes behaviors and emotions and decisions and values are those we learned in childhood.  We constantly live out our childhood and those roles given to us by our families of origin.  We are not conscious of it, yet we live out those scripts.

We are not imprisoned by them.  We can discover these scripts.  We can remember our childhood and name the roles we were given.  In so naming them, we can choose to do something different.    Christmas can be a time to recall our own childhoods, whether they were painful or joyful, or a bit of both.  

Whether or not, we, like Ricky Bobby,  pray to the eight pound six ounce tiny infant baby Jesus, we can honor the sacredness of the child—to pay attention to that child within us. 

Christmas is a time to embrace that child within us, who needs our love and care.