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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Behold! Good News of Great Joy!

A wrong number started the whole thing. Way back before the internet, smart phones, cell phones, caller ID, or even answering machines, we used dial telephones, got busy signals, and "hung up" after too many rings. And since there were no robo calls and telemarketing, there were very few unsolicited phone calls.

In those more simple days, one year about two week before Christmas my uncle received a call from a child who asked to speak to someone not known by him. He gave the usual reply for such a call, "Sorry, you have the wrong number."

The child asked, "Who is this?"

My uncle decided to have a little fun, "This is Santa Claus."  He had no idea what he was starting.

"Really?" The child said.

"Yup. That's me"

"Where are you?" The child asked.

"Why, the North Pole, of course."

After some conversation about what the child wanted for Christmas they hung up.

Immediately the phone rang again. It was the child.  "Is this Santa?"

"Didn't we just talk?" My uncle asked.

"Yes. I just want to make sure I had the right number."   Click.

For the next two weeks my uncle's phone rang off the hook, as we used to say. Child after child called to speak with Santa. He played the role with every caller and even enlisted my aunt to be Mrs. Claus when he wasn't there. Hundreds of children in our community were filled with joy that Christmas because they got to call the North Pole and talk to Santa and Mrs. Claus. And there's no telling how many called when my uncle and aunt weren't home.

One amazing thing about this story is how fast Santa's phone number got spread around. Remember there was no email, texting, or snapchat. This happened the old fashion way by passing notes in class, whispering in lunch lines, huddling on playgrounds, and walking to school in packs. Another wonderful thing is how one simple, spontaneous moment of fun ignited joy in so many, especially my aunt and uncle. Small acts of kindness can be and often are contagious.

There is an old saying about news - "Bad news travels at the speed of light, good news like molasses." I'm not so sure about that, especially when there is so much bad news around and good news seems to be rare.  The first words of the angel announcing Jesus' birth are "Fear not!" The next words are, "I bring you good news of great joy!"  Maybe if more of us would actually "fear not" and act upon our impulses of "kinder angels" more joy would be ignited and shared.

By the way, my uncle was a "newsman." He was News Director for a local radio station, and columnist for several local papers.  His spontaneous, "This is Santa Claus," may have been his best ever lede!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Miracle Babies

Somewhere in every genealogy is an unexpected birth, a story in our lineage of the baby who was not supposed to be. In many cases that baby may even be us. The scenarios of unexpected conceptions are many. Among them are: supposed infertility, way too fertile, illicit liaisons, miscalculations, chance encounters, unleashed passion, desperate measures, violence, careless contraception, or past the prime years. Whatever the story is and whoever the baby was, the reality is that if they weren't then you aren't. Most of us don't have to look very far to find a "miracle baby" in our lives that allows our life.

In the Bible all of the major birth stories of iconic figures are stories of barrenness, infertility, obstacles, and impediment to conception and birth. In many cases the these stories are actually the same story, retold with new characters and circumstances. The Christmas story is one of these.

The story of Mary, Joseph, and the birth of Jesus is an echo of Abraham, Sarah, and Issac; the Hebrew midwives and Moses; Boaz, Ruth, and Obed; Elkanah, Hannah, and Samuel; David, Bathsheba, and Solomon; Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John. Miracle babies galore!

All of these stories of unexpected, unplanned births remind us that life itself is often unexpected. Even lives that are planned and come off without a hitch are possible because somewhere, sometime, someone in our past was born unexpectedly.  In a fanciful way, we are all Miracle Babies!