A Child, Ashes, and the Incarnation

Her parents call her Peep.  She is a wonder to behold.  A beautiful little girl.  She has fantastic red hair and eyes that light up a room when she smiles.  She is always on the go.  

You must know that Peep loves the baby Jesus.  Her mom told me that everytime they are in the church Peep wants to go find baby Jesus.  On Christmas Eve, Peep went up to the front of the chancel following the children's Christmas Eve service so that she could hold baby Jesus and kiss him on the cheek.

I have known Peep's mother since she was 17 years old.  That was 23 years ago.  We have seen a lot of life in those 23 years - tragedy, victory, joy, laughter, tears, death, marriage, birth.  One thing I learned about her mother is that one of her favorite worship experiences is Ash Wednesday.  She loves the beauty, simplcity, and solemnity of the service.  She loves going up to take communion by intinction and receiving the imposition of ashes on her forehead as a reminder of the grace of God as well as her own mortality.  Is it any wonder that even though Peep was small, her mother and father brought her with them in tow this year? 

At the appropriate time, Peep, mom, and dad walked up to receive communion and the imposition of ashes.  They got in line to receive the elements with the other pilgrims who had gathered that evening. Standing at the front of the line offering the cup and the bread was Peep's grandpa, a ruling elder in the church.  As she neared the front of the line she saw him and let out a small but audible squeal in his direction.  Overcome with emotion, when Peep, her mommy, and daddy reached  the wise ruling elder's station, he could not speak.  He simply made tearful eye contact with his grandchild and held out the cup for her to dip her morsel in - the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. Then Peep went to the woman standing next to him.  She dipped her thumb into her bowl of ashes and made the sign of the cross on Peep's forehead. "Rmember small one, from ashes you have come, to ashes you will return." 

As Peep and her family walked out in silence, they made it to the hall just outside of the sanctuary when Peep tugged on her mommy's arm.  She bent down and Peep said in her ear, "Find baby Jesus? Find baby Jesus."  So on Ash Wednesday, reluctanctly daddy, mommy, and Peep walked around the church for 30 minutes in a search for baby Jesus. 

"I guess baby Jesus isn't here tonight," Peep said as the family finally made their way to the parking lot. 

I am not one who likes to bring Christmas into every other season of the church calendar.  In fact, I think that we have jollied up all of our holy days a bit too much.  However, I do think Peep is on to something.  She has reminded me of the wonder of the incarnation.  Without a miraculous birth, when the word became flesh, we have no reason to walk together solemnly these 40 days.  Without a babe born in Bethlehem, there is no journey to Jerusalem and no Friday we call Good. 

Throughout the Season of Lent, with ashes on our foreheads, the reminder of death whispered in our ears, and the tast of bread and wine in our mouths, we could all use a reminder to look for the baby Jesus, even here. 


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