A new baby. Swaddled in a fuzzy blanket. Warm and solid, but also tiny and fragile. Dependent. Precious. Sleeping peacefully.
This new baby was born on Friday and came home to La Casa on Sunday. Her mother came to this country from Tajikistan by way of Russia and Mexico, her family fleeing religious persecution. Detained at the border, her mother and father were separated. Her father continues to wait in prison, trapped by a judge who refuses to offer a bond.
Despite knowing the challenges encircling her and her family, looking at this new baby, I am filled with hope. Wonder. Awe. I think of all that life might hold for her. I remember what an incredible treasure this gift of life is.
I wonder if this is how God sees me and holds me always, even now, when I am not so cute or small. I wonder how I can remember to feel this sense of wonder for my own life and the lives of everyone I meet every single day. I want to hold on to this feeling. I want to imagine being held and gazed at with the absolute love in the eyes of a new mother every day.
That is what a new baby brings. Hope. Joy. A restoration of faith and connection. A reminder of what pure love feels like and looks like. A reminder of our everyday miracle of life. A reminder of the fact that we continue to be fragile, we continue to be held, we continue to be precious, always.
A new baby at Christmastime also brings a reminder of the hope and joy and faith and love that Jesus’s birth brought into the world. I can imagine that tiny baby, swaddled and laid to sleep in a feed trough. God incarnated into a fragile baby to teach us how to live.
Jesus was born into a world of suffering. A time and place rife with conflict, disease, inequality, and injustice. Jesus’s family was traveling when he was born and they were dishonored, not given a proper guest room but instead told to stay in the place where the animals were kept.
This new baby too, and this family, is like a lit candle in the engulfing darkness. They are traveling and are dishonored by our society, denied the right to a safe, stable life. This baby’s father can’t hold his new daughter or see her or participate in sharing in these first joyous days with his wife and two other small children. He is trapped in a place of total evil and isolation.
And yet, his only words to me when he called a few hours after his daughter was born were of gratitude. He kept saying thank you over and over again. To our church that has created this safe haven in La Casa de Maria y Marta. To our community that over these last few weeks has surrounded this mother with love.
I can’t begin to name the number of people who have contributed to offering hospitality to this baby's mother. A hospitality that in many ways will continue to surround all future families that travel through here. I can’t begin to name their generous gifts in donations, time, energy, and prayer. There is so much to be thankful for in all the transformation that is happening around this new life. But when I hung up the phone, I couldn’t hold it together.
We feel deeply both the hope and joy of this birth and the suffering that we know is all around us. We hope so much for her life and for this family to be safe and together. We also know that she is entering into a world that is broken and that she will encounter suffering. We see the miracle of this new life and all of this pouring out of love, this candlelight, blurred through our tears as we cry out about injustice.
But let us allow this new baby to light a candle in all of our hearts to remind us of all that we receive in this life.
Let us lift her up, remembering hope. The hope of all that is to come.
Let us lift her up, remembering love. The loving gaze of God holding us like a newborn.
Let us lift her up, remembering faith. That even though this family reads from a different book of scripture than we do, we are all families in faith, walking with God through these trials.
Let us lift her up, remembering community. That we can participate in righting the wrongs of injustice through hospitality and love.
Let us lift her up, remembering suffering. That injustice still exists and will continue to exist.
Let us lift her up, remembering miracle. That every single one of our days is as precious as our first.
And let us speak her name and honor her family and all families that are cruelly and unjustly separated: Rayyana.