We celebrated a baptism this morning at St Tim's, and we read one of the "standard" gospels for baptism. You know, the one from John' Gospel where Nicodemus comes to Jesus and they have this lopsided conversation about being born - from above, again, of water and the Spirit. It strikes me as odd that we have these two men talking about birth. After all, on paper what we have is a (probably) fairly senior man talking to a celibate rabbi sort of guy, and the topic of discussion is not sports, not the economy, not even the possible arguments about religion. Instead we have two men talking about birth. It is not a topic which we guys warm to all that easily.
Before we go any further, let me say that I am no expert in the field. I am more of what they call an accessory to the crime, so to speak. I've attended 5 births, and can remember 80% of them. I'm sure I was present at my own birth, but am uncertain as to what exactly I contributed to the event. I've witnesses 4 physical births, and I wonder if there is some basic imagery which we miss when we read this story from the Gospel. I wonder, for instance, if Jesus' words about the wind, the Spirit, "blowing where it wills" could give some insight into the variety of prenatal classes I have attended. After all, the only thing I think of when I hear the term "prenatal class" is breathing exercises. I'm not sure if yours were of the loooonnnggg - short-short-short school of thought, or the uummpphhhnnn in through the nose gently out through the mouth variety. All that matters is that I was allowed to attend prenatal classes so that when the fateful hour came, it would give the appearance that I had something substantial to contribute to the event. But the wind blows where it wills, and all my practiced skills went out the window. Afterwards it could be said that at least I intended to contribute something to the birth itself.
But I digress. What Jesus is talking about in using the image of birth is the arrival of a new person. It's funny how the first memories of each birth come back. All you can think about is the awe, and wonder and love that this new person evokes. It is amazing: a person breaks in upon your world and your world is never the same. I wonder, too, if this birth image works both ways: in baptism the person of Christ, of the Father, of the Spirit, breaks in upon this world, and it is never the same. And our response to this new Person in our lives, in "our" world, should simply be this: awe and wonder and love. And is it too much to believe that our Father, who art in heaven, also has for us, his newborns, something of which our experience is merely the shadow and image? Surely He too, has told us (his adopted children, brought by new birth) of love for us. Deep calls to deep.
Sometime in late March I'll be delivering (no pun intended) an address sponsored by the Prayer Book Society: "A Service of Thanksgiving After Childbirth": Choosing Sarah.
Sarah is our second child, diagnosed prenatally with Down Syndrome. I'll let you know when the date is set.