Our second day at Maua Methodist Hospital in Maua, Kenya, we split to various tasks. A part of our group went with the hospital chaplain on her rounds. As they moved from ward to ward, they came to the maternity unit. The ward did not have private rooms (or semi-private) as we are used to. Instead about 8 beds were spread out in a large rectangle ward offering some limited privacy. Newborn mothers with their babies were mixed in with some mothers whose babies had not survived.
The reader can imagine the sensitivity and prayers that were needed as members of the team visited with various mothers. One person would be in great joy because of the birth of their new child and the next bed over a mother would be in deep grief over the loss of a still-born child.
As our team shared individually with the mothers, one of the team members visited with a mother who had a beautiful newborn. However, instead of great joy, she too was in grief. As our team member listened, shared and prayed, the new mother offered the team member her new baby. “Would you take my child?”
As you can imagine the team member was shocked by the offer. Who would willingly give up their beautiful baby? I literally could not imagine doing so! As a father, being a parent is near the top of my list of the truly great things that have happened to me. (Converting to Christ and marrying Jolynn come first and second. Our children, Nathan and Sarah, along with our granddaughter, Grace Jean, are all tied for 3rd!) When I think of giving away a baby, scenes from TV crime dramas come to mind. You know the kind – Some bad guys cook up a scheme to sell babies for profit and the great detectives of Law & Order or NCIS save the day.
The woman’s offer — “Take my baby” — didn’t fit any of those manufactured dramas. Instead the offer was made by a mother’s love. Impoverished with too many children already to feed, the mother out of love for her newborn child hoped that someone would be able to take care of her child better. She was willing to give the child away as an act of love. (One member of our Team who has worked with the poor as a nurse commented, “I can take you places where this is happening in Fort Worth too.”)
As our Kenyan Mission Trip team member shared the story, I was blown away. How could a loving parent ever willingly give up a child?! Yet the more I reflected on the offer (which by the way was rejected) and the more I discussed it with others, the more I came to see the deep love involved in the grieving mother’s actions. In love, she was offering her baby to another.
I have been thinking and praying about this incident on our Mission Trip for the last 3 + weeks. Slowly it has dawned me that this is exactly what God has done with His “only begotten Son.” The Lord God, the ultimate loving parent, has given His/Her son in love to a spiritually impoverished, morally bankrupt, and physically damaged world. In love God has said to us, “Here, take my baby.” This is the greatness, the awesome greatness of God’s love.
As we move into the fall, I invite and challenge us to prepare for the Advent and Christmas season focusing on the great parental love of The Lord. Doctrinally this is called the incarnation. It is the awe-inspiring story of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:14). It is one of three truly great distinctives of the Christian faith (along with the doctrine of the Trinity and the Resurrection. There is an argument that can be made for others, but that discussion is for a later day.)
For those of you engaging in Advent planning, I urge you to go to Cokesbury.com and investigate the excellent new resources for teaching the meaning of Advent and Christmas (the doctrine of the incarnation). Let this great love of God dominate our preaching and worship this Advent and Christmas!