In 1868, Bret Harte wrote a story called “The Luck of Roaring Camp.” Roaring Camp was supposed to be roughest mining town in the West. There were only rough and tumble men living there, except for a woman named Cherokee Sal who tried to take care of them. She died, however, while giving birth to her son.
There weren’t any women to take care of this baby, and the men didn’t want to bring another female into the camp, so they decided to take care of the boy themselves. Believing the boy to a good sign, they named him “Thomas Luck.”
The men took the baby and put him a box with some old rags but when they looked at him, they realized that this didn’t look right. So, they sent one of the men 80 miles away to Sacramento buy a cradle and when he got back and they put the baby in there, they realized the rags didn’t look right. So, several other men travelled that same distance to buy new blankets. Upon their return, they wrapped the baby in new blankets and placed him in the new cradle.
Well, the men soon realized that the floor upon which the new cradle rested was filthy. These harded men got on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floor clean, which was fine until they got up and saw how dirty the walls and windows without curtains appeared. You know what happened next. Soon the walls, windows, and curtains looked like they were supposed to.
This baby changed everything around the men, and eventually the emotional temperature of the camp went down as they sought to keep things peaceful for their new arrival. The men would place baby Luck outside the entrance of the mine and bring shiny stones back for him. Eventually they planted flowers and a garden around the area for him to be seen. Not only did they clean up the area around the baby, but the men cleaned themselves up too.
That’s not the end of the story, and it actually has a somber ending but my point is that in Harte’s writing as in our 21st century life, babies change everything. Babies change priorities, plans, dreams, motives, and hopes. As a pastor, I have been amazed to see couples who had previously not had any interest in church become actively involved because they see the value of having their son or daughter in a positive spiritual environment. It’s all because that baby had a profound change on the parents and their attitude toward life.
Tomorrow night, at our Christmas Eve service, I have the privilege of talking to our church family and friends about the baby who changed everything. Of course, that baby was named Jesus Christ, also called “Emmanuel” meaning “God with us.” We will light the final candle, the Christ candle, on the Advent wreath and acknowledge the gentle truth that “Christmas is here!”
Lori and I have been blessed with three babies in our own lives. Cally turned 13 a few days ago and is now on Facebook, Lucy will be 8 in less than a week, and Matt is 6 and enjoys playing superheros on the Wii game. He and Lucy get to debate about whose turn it is, and while this can be aggravating at times I do pause and give thanks for their presence in our lives and how all three of them have changed everything for us.
I give thanks for my wife Lori and three children on this Christmas, as they are the greatest gifts in my life and have changed everything for me. We all give praise to God on this Christmas for the precious gift of “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Indeed, this baby born over 2000 years ago still makes a difference for those who believe the story found in the gospels.
We’ll start another year soon, and things will be hectic once again. But for now, I want to pause and join millions of Christians around the world in welcoming the arrival of the baby once again.