Approaching midnight at my church’s candlelight Christmas Eve service last night, after we had worked our way through the birth-of-Christ story with scripture readings and a goodly assortment of carols, we sang a final song that contained this lyric: Now ye hear of endless bliss / Jesus Christ was born for this!
Those words thrummed that certain way in my chest, and I walked on home in the bracing cold air looking up at the stars and chanting to myself: born for this, born for this. I’ll bet you get that experience too sometimes, where something rings very true for you, and you feel quietly thrilled, or maybe not so quietly, and it lifts you up, gives you energy, puts pep in your step.
I love the concept that Jesus was born to give us joy. I believe we all are born for something specific, something that is uniquely ours to do or be, and we’re here on earth to fulfill that, and help each other fulfill that. What do you sense you were born to do or be?
My older brother Jeff teaches band music to junior high students, and my younger brother Mick teaches English to children with dyslexia and ADHD. When I’ve watched them working with students in their classrooms, patiently encouraging slow learners, challenging the bright ones, joking around while keeping control, animatedly conducting concerts and so on, it’s been clear to me Jeff and Mick were born to do what they are doing. The ping, the give and take, the flow, the fit and rightness of life purpose are all there.
The students and parents seem to think so, too: every Christmas they send my brothers home for winter break with stacks of candy, baked treats, gourmet junk food, Gap cards, Visa cards, Borders cards, Trader Joes cards and particularly Starbucks cards. One year Jeff passed on to me one of his plethora of Starbucks cards, perhaps feeling sorry for me that as a state employee who administers grants, I cannot accept gifts, not like you teachers who rake in the loot, I might have muttered to him at some point. Subtly and discreetly, under my breath. I promptly lost the Starbucks card, which makes me suspect that discombobulated gift card recipients like myself are significant contributors to the profit margins of retail gift-card issuers. Well, Jesus loves them too, I remind myself.
But I digress. Now we hear of endless bliss: Jesus Christ was born for this. He was born to willingly sacrifice for us. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the notion that sacrificial giving can be transformative, even earth-changing. All of us are capable of some degree of sacrifice. Look at how parents worldwide sacrifice to raise their infants, the most helpless, needy creatures imaginable. Look at how soldiers over the millenia have sacrificed their lives in wars that changed the world’s landscape. I truly believe the world can be changed and differences resolved without resorting to war, but the point is that sacrifice, giving even at real cost to ourselves, is woven into the fabric of our lives. It may be a necessary element of what we were born to do. Along with innovation and conservation, sacrifice is necessary for dealing with global warming. I am disappointed that unless I’ve missed something, President Obama hasn’t spoken of any need for sacrifice in our nation since his inaugural address almost a year ago. (By the way, I’ll post Part II of Alison Cassandra Barcelona within a week.)
Last night I walked back in my front door at the stroke of midnight to a warmly lit house, the bright sounds of Victorian Christmas carols from the stereo, melted cheese toast and sparkling pear juice set out for me, and a smiling husband who hugged me. (Going to church is not part of what Thor was born to do, but nurturing me is.) While I ate I told him about the candlelight service, the resonant feeling in my chest, my sense that we can live with purpose, born for this.