My brother’s wife’s sister’s daughter (aka, my sister in law’s niece) gave birth to a new baby on Christmas day. (I have no idea what that makes her to me – a cousin twice removed by marriage? Twin sons of different mothers? Nothing?) Despite our best suggested names for a baby born on Christmas day texted to them while she was in delivery – such as Holly or Ivy if it was a girl, Nicholas, Ebenezer or Jacob if it were a guy – they went and named her Hattie Lynn. Born into the world 3 weeks early, baby Wiegert is doing fine and weighed in at 7lbs, 7 oz.
And if you have ever had kids, or, like me, been around families when they have their first born, you know where they are right now. Smack dab in the middle of dealing with the NEW NORMAL. Everything is wrapped around little Hattie. Lizzie and Andy are learning the rhythm of eating and sleeping and changing diapers; learning the wonder of holding that tiny child, attentive to every stretch and yawn, watching every facial expression, and doing the best to surround that new life with love in every possible way. The new normal means that every moment, every decision gets weighed in light of that “other” who is born into their hearts and lives and realities. It is a wonderful kind of new normal that they are happy to deal with.
That got me to thinking: what would it be like for us to walk through our days like that? What if we approached the unfolding of this year with the same gentleness, the same awe, the same wonder as my sister in-law’s niece will? What if we allowed this New Year to be an experience of ‘a new normal’ for us?
In some ways, it already is. The world is different, but not necessarily better because of the events in Newtown, CT. I am pretty sure that no one wants that to become the new normal. So will we let those events make us look as deeply into our culture of violence as Andy and Lizzie look into little Hattie’s face?
What policies will we push for, to bring a different normal into our world?
In my own world, this is my 13th year at the Newman Center, and my 11th as pastor here. I confess, it is easy to become comfortable and perhaps a bit complacent in leading. I know the rhythm and routines. I know who to call in emergency. I think I know what it is to preach. But, do I approach my prayer in the same way Andy and Lizzie approach looking into Hattie’s face – alert for every wrinkle, every change in mood, every new expression and movement of the Spirit. Or do I already know what I will see there? A new normal is a good thing, I think…
Mary knew about several “new normals” in her first days and years with baby Jesus. Making an 11 day journey from Bethlehem where she was for the census and the birth back to Nazareth with a newborn. Pulling up stakes to flee to Egypt with the only evidence being Joseph’s dream. Leaving Egypt to return to Nazareth. Yet, as we hear from St. Luke, in the midst of all these new normals, she kept “all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” That is what allows her that freedom to trust in God. In that reflecting, she realized that she didn’t have to know what New Normal would be next. She did not have to have it all scripted out or prepared. Rather, she simply had to be faithful to each new moment, each new twist and turn in her life, because she knew that God would do the rest.
So whether the “New Normal” is as exciting as a new baby or as troubling as news from a doctor or headlines from Newtown Connecticut, what Mary teaches us is that there is never a moment when God was not a part of our lives, guiding us and leading us. Because of that, we can celebrate all the days that lie ahead.
Happy New Year. And moreover, Happy New Normal, whatever that may look like in your world…