He’d just finished his pastoral visits, but Pastor Tom Mc Gowan was in no hurry to leave the hospital.
He still had presents to buy and he needed batteries for the toys that would be under the tree for the grandkids. But Tom knew what was really bothering him. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t come up with an angle for his Christmas Eve sermon.
He’d been a pastor for twenty years and the Christmas story was usually easy for Tom to talk about. He wanted to find a way to help the congregation focus on Jesus; to give glory to God and find meaning during their familiar holiday activities. He’d preached just about every angle of the Christmas story he could think of, but this year he just couldn’t think of a new way to tell it.
Tom knew he was doing what God had called him to do and he knew God sometimes sent him sermon topics at the last minute. But he hated leaving the Christmas Eve message to chance.
Tom glanced at his watch and saw it was about the time his wife, Ruth, might be able to take a break. She was a nurse in the maternity ward, and he could at least go down and say hello. He took the elevator to the third floor. He peeked in the window and saw Ruth in the back, feeding one of the babies. When she saw Tom, she smiled and put up one finger as she saw him; she’d be right with him.
He’d seen it many times and it always made him smile: a row of pink-and-blue-blanketed-miracles. Some were sleeping; some were crying, but all of them represented brand new lives. Ruth had cared for so many like these over the years; he wondered if she might have the same sense of routine about her own work as he’d sensed with his, tonight.
“Hi honey,” Ruth interrupted his thoughts.
“Can you get away for a cup of coffee?” he asked.
“Let me go tell Barb and I’ll be right with you,” she told him.
They sat at the table with a coffee and two donuts. It always made him feel better to talk to Ruth. He asked her the question he’d been considering: “Ruth, do you ever feel like you’re in a rut, at work? Do you get to the place where all the deliveries seems the same?”
“Oh, no,” she laughed.
“Oh, goodness, Tom. When I saw my first delivery, back in nursing school, I knew for sure that I wanted to be an OB nurse. It was the inspiration for my career. But that isn’t the reason I’m still an OB nurse today.”
“No, it isn’t. Every birth is special for the parents, and every time I participate, I feel like I’m celebrating along with them. For me…it’s like every birth is a new experience and my inspiration comes alive again, each time.”
“So … even the millionth birth was like the first, for you?”
“Well, I don’t think it’s been that many, but sure… I think it would be. After all, even preaching about the millionth Christmas would be special for you, wouldn’t it?”
Well, that was exactly the problem he’d been having, and maybe he could have told her. She would have understood. But instead, he turned the talk to their grandchildren, and what they’d have for Christmas dinner. He threw away their napkins and coffee cups, walked Ruth back to the nursery and said he’d see her later. He looked at the babies again, before he left. New birth… always a miracle.
And that’s when it hit him. Ruth had given him the answer. She may have chosen OB nursing because of one day in her own history, but her job kept inspiring her because she experienced each birth like it was a new celebration. Tom – and the congregation – may celebrate Christmas because of an event in history, but each Christmas Day gives the world an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Hope and Life within our hearts.
Tom smiled to himself as he wrote down his sermon topic: “The Millionth Birth”. It was his way to help his congregation in this year’s celebration. After all, the Christmas season isn’t just about that long-ago birth – it’s about each time Jesus is reborn in our hearts; whether it be for the first time … or the millionth time.
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