A Christmas meditation delivered by The Rev. Timothy C. Ahrens, Senior Minister, The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Columbus, Ohio, December 24, 2003, 7:30 pm service, dedicated to the ten babies born at First Church since Christmas 2002 and always to the glory of God!

"Baby Talk"

Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20


Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each one of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our salvation. Amen.


Since last Christmas, new sounds have entered God's universe. These are not the sounds of extraterrestrials. These are the sounds of babies. Although these sounds are similar to those produced by billions of babies before them, each one of these newborns have their own unique way of communicating, their fingerprints of sound, if you will. We call the collective speech of the newest members of our species - "Baby talk." But, "talk" doesn't begin to define all that emanates from the mouths of babes. There is cooing, humming, gurgling, clicking, sighing, purring, chattering, and a combination of these and many more sounds.

Of course, all these varieties of sound are not the only way for God's smallest blessings to communicate. They also "Body Language." They help us look heavenward by gazing at lights (one of the favorite activities of First Church's finest and most precious newcomers). Their rolling arms and highly developed hand signals send messages as well. They chew on their hands and then comes the placing of their feet in their mouths - a sport of unmatched athleticism and a technique which will serve some of our children well as they follow their parents' paths to adulthood. Body talk and baby talk are constantly communicating with us.

Last week, I e-mailed all the parents of our ten new First Church babies. (As an aside, for those who have adopted children at various ages, the sounds of your beloved enter our universe just as significantly, but at varying stages of development). I asked the parents of newborns to share the sounds of their children. It is hard for me to recreate all the beautiful and poignant responses tonight. But, a sampling includes: "MA-MA" and "DA-DA" are the most obvious sounds. "GOO-GOO" and "GA-GA;" "BAW-BAW" (bottle) not to be confused with "BA-BA" and "WA-WA" and "GA-GA" which are interchangeable words for pets and siblings (who are becoming less and less charmed by being named alongside the family's dogs and cats).

Our oldest member of the newborn set is Mattes Natalia who was born on Christmas Day, 2002 to Peter Brown, Jody Blankenburg, and big brother Parken. In fact, Jody started labor during the pageant of this service last year. (Doctors and nurses, you are always on call at First Church!) Peter writes of Mattes, "She's talking all the time, nowadays, keeping up a happy, steady babble that punctuates our time together in a light, sprightly way. I do not know how I will live without her sounds when she grows older." Of course, those of us who have lived beyond those adorable sounds have found ways to adjust to the formation and use of words that follow. "PA-PA," we also miss the punctuation of our time together with the light, sprightly way our babies sounded delight in their evolving universe.

How do we live without these sounds when our babies grow older? How do we live beyond baby talk?

This Christmas Eve, we once again recreate our kneeling places in Bethlehem. Tonight, we remember through Word, through pageantry and song, the first night of Christ's coming. So many carols, so many songs, so many sermons, so many poems, The Word of God and so many words beyond, have been written to talk about the Christ child and this holy night.

What was it like for Jesus Christ to be born? He who had no words was "The Word of God" Incarnate. He, who lay asleep in silent night, contained the language of the universe within his being. He, who became a refugee, was to become the one in whom we take our refuge. He, who was the savior of the world, was born in poverty, to a single teenage mother, in a cave called a stable.

If he could have spoken, what would he have said that night? Would he have told us that peace would come on earth? Would he have promised us hope in the face of a despairing world? Would he have gurgled and cooed from his darkness at the edge of Bethlehem that justice would come for those oppressed and love would open the hearts of the loveless and unloved? Yes, he would have.

In his "Sprightly way," Jesus would have started that night what we are meant to complete, had he been given the gift of newborn articulation. He would have told a world waiting to be born again, that the universe is still yearning for love - a love which can be manifest in us. He, who was the light of the world, would have shined his light in us and through us to others.

"Fear not, for behold I bring you great tidings of joy. For unto us is born this night, a savior, who is Christ the Lord." Listen. Can you hear him talking this night? Listen. He is punctuating our time together with good news of great joy! Amen.

Copyright 2003, The First Congregational Church

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