FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT
Who likes going to the hospital? It’s a place for the seriously ill or injured. It’s a place where invasive surgeries are performed and patients are closely monitored in intensive care units. Yet there is one place in the hospital where the atmosphere is entirely different. People like going there. There are balloons, bright colors, and often large windows through which family and friends can see the youngest patients. The birthing center and nursery are filled with joy over the arrival of each baby.
Parents cradle their newborn son or daughter and for a moment at least forget about the previous sleepless night, the pressures at work, political turmoil around the world, and all the other problems of life as they marvel over the gift God has provided. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3 ESV) Mom and Dad pray their newborn will avoid the mistakes they have made. They dream of a bright future and imagine what their child may accomplish. They eagerly share the news of the new family member.
The Old Testament believer Lamech felt much the same way. “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.’” (Genesis 5:28-29 ESV) This new father certainly rejoiced in his son’s birth and looked forward to raising him and watching him grow into adulthood.
But perhaps he was also thinking of something much greater. The “painful toil” of life on earth was due to Adam’s sin, but God had promised the Seed of the woman, Who would break the power of sin and give new life to a world born in Adam’s image. Believers from Adam and Eve on found their greatest hope in the promise of the Savior. Every birth reminded them of the promise.
Lamech may well have hoped that Noah was the Comforter they had long been anticipating. And in a way he was. God used Noah as His agent to preserve life on the ark when He destroyed the wicked earth with the flood. Yet, Noah was not the One who would win eternal life for all people. Noah is called righteous, not because of his own holiness, but because of his faith in God’s promise.
The births of our children and grandchildren are sources of joy, not just because of who they are and what they might do with their futures, but especially because of the hope we have for them and ourselves in the birth of God’s Son. The Baby born in Bethlehem is the greater “Noah,” Who avoided all the failings of which we are guilty and lived a sinless life in our place. He has given us the most wonderful relief from our toil by taking on Himself the burden of our sins and paying the penalty in full on the cross. In Baptism He has rescued us from the destruction coming at the end of time. “. . . In the days of Noah . . . eight persons were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you . . . through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:20-21 ESV)
Whether or not we ever set foot in a hospital, we are surrounded by pain and suffering brought into every life by sin. It wears us down. It is discouraging. It is terrifying to think of the condemnation which is rightfully ours. All the lights, parties, and nonstop activity of the world can do nothing to provide relief. But when you are tired, worried, and feel hopeless, there is a place to go. In Advent and Christmas services, in family devotions, and in quality time with just you and the Lord, go to the nursery at Bethlehem and rejoice in your newborn Savior.
Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and president of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.