Two weeks ago I was driving home from work in peak hour traffic when a terrible drama started to play itself out before my eyes: A baby lost its blankie. It was a bright pink one with white dots and I could see the baby reach for it over her mothers shoulder when it drifted out of her hands and landed on the pedestrian crossing right in the middle of the road.
The pedestrian light was flashing and about to turn red, the tram had closed its doors and was about to start moving, and the mother was crossing the road, ignoring the red light, trying desperately to make it to the tram, hoping to reach it in time so she could get on board before its light would turn green.
It took me about a minute to take in the whole picture: oncoming traffic on Glenferrie Road about to hit the blankie, the tram ready to move, impatient traffic behind it ready to whizz past as soon as the stop signs would have folded back and this mother with the baby over one shoulder, running for a tram she, by the looks of it, desperately needed to catch.
What happened was nothing short of a miracle. The car about to go through orange on Glenferrie road stopped and a man started to get out. The mother got on the tram, it closed its doors, but no car moved. O no, I thought, the blankie! Two minutes later the doors of the tram opened again, the mother tumbled out, with the baby, and ran back to where the man, who had parked his car virtually in the middle of the road, was waiting for her with the bright pink piece of cloth. The mother got back on the tram and every thing started moving again.
That day on Glenferrie Road the world stopped for a baby. A crazy car driver trying to make it through orange, a tram trying to keep to its schedule, cars ready to whizz past the tram as soon as they possibly could, people in the tram as irritable and frantic as the rest of us at this time of the year, we all stopped and held our breath for a pink piece of cloth and two chubby arms reaching out across the shoulders of an oblivious mother.
The world stopped for about two minutes to care and all it took was a baby reaching out for a pink piece of cloth.
For the baby Jesus the world does not stop. On the contrary. The way Luke tells the story makes it abundantly clear it doesnt. A faraway emperor forces his mother to hobble all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey when she should have been at home close to family, friends and a reliable midwife to help her bring her first born into the world. Arriving in Bethlehem there is only a stable, some straw and a feeding trough. The only visitors after the birth a handful of shepherds smelling of maggoty rabbit who have heard something fluttering in the night.
The world did not stop when Jesus was born. It is a point Luke most poignantly makes by painting the sharp contrast between the world of the powerful and the world of those who are pushed around by them. There is no room when this very special person enters the world, nobody pays attention to it, apart from a couple of shepherds who dont really count because they are nobodies.
Where the divine enters the world nothing much happens. There is a flutter of light and heavenly music in the air which passes those busy ruling the world completely by, there is a glimmer of hope penetrating the darkness only seen by those who are in complete darkness and not dazzled by the glitter of the halls of power. But then the heavens close, and a mother and her baby remain in the most dire of circumstances.
It is for that our world stops at Christmas, calling us to make room for the divine finding its way into the world. To hear the flutter of angels singing in the night and to hear their call to make the Christ child welcome in our lives. To stop and take time to care, to make room for the love and light this child represents. To follow in his footsteps and let Gods love to shape our lives as it did his. At Christmas we celebrate the divine finding a way into this world, regardless of what may be going on and growing and changing the world even through the ravages of hatred and death. Amen.