FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT
What can a baby do? “Not much!” would seem to be the obvious answer. A newborn cannot walk or speak or send a text. Much of early infancy is spent in eating and sleeping. Yet there is one thing babies can do better than almost anyone else. Without any effort of their own, they fill those around them with a sense of wonder and expectation.
Mom and Dad carefully cradle the new member of the family in their arms and marvel at how she opens and closes her little fists. They smile as she scrunches up her face while she naps. They share David’s sentiments: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps. 139:13-14 NIV84) Expectations of grandparents and friends soar as they imagine what God has in store for this new life. Will he grow up to serve the Lord as a doctor, farmer, or perhaps be the first one in the family to study for the public ministry? Anything seems possible.
Yet the wonder and expectations are tempered by the realization that this child, too, is a descendant of Adam, and therefore has inherited Adam’s sinful nature. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh.” (John 3:6 NIV84) Along with the child’s gifts and future accomplishments, there will be failings and rebellion against God and parents. There will be the need for correction and repentance. He may grow up and discover a cure for cancer, but he cannot overcome the fatal curse of sin at work in all of us.
What chance is there then that a baby could rescue mankind from sin and death? But that is just what God promised. No sooner had sin infected the world than God announced that the Seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head. Eve’s confidence in the promise is reflected in Luther’s translation of Genesis 4:1. After giving birth to her firstborn son, Cain, Eve said, “I have the Man, the Lord.” Luther felt that Eve supposed her child was the Messiah. “Although this was a false hope, it nevertheless is clear that Eve was a saintly woman and that she believed the promise concerning the future salvation through the blessed Seed.” (Luther’s Works, vol. I, p. 242, ©CPH 1958)
The Advent and Christmas seasons are filled with the greatest wonder and expectation, not because of the material gifts we exchange with one another, but because of God’s priceless gift of His own Son. What could the Baby in the manger do? What a wonder that the eternal God would take on our flesh and blood to live on this sin-ravaged earth! From day one He was our perfect Substitute under God’s law. Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, Jesus did not inherit Adam’s sin. If He had not told us, could you ever imagine that the holy God would be willing to do what you are supposed to do, and then suffer the death you deserve?
Because Jesus was born, every other birth is accompanied with the wonder of that child already being redeemed and reconciled to God by Jesus’ blood. Parents can have the highest expectations for their child, trusting that the Lord loves little ones and receives them as His lambs in the water of Baptism. He will nurture their faith with the milk of the Word and strengthen them to fight the good fight of faith until they receive a crown of glory.
No matter what your age or situation in life, look to Jesus in wonder and expectation. Live in awe of His love toward us who by nature are totally unlovable. Come to Him with the expectation that He will never turn away a broken and contrite heart, but instead will daily provide His blessings in our personal lives, families, congregations, and church body.
What can a baby do? When the Baby’s name is Jesus, the answer is, “Anything at all!” There is nothing He cannot do in carrying out His saving will. May the love of God in the person of the Christchild fill us all with the greatest wonder and expectation.
Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and president of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.