What can you compare to the birth of a baby. It is one of the most thrilling, marvellous, traumatic, wonder-provoking events. A day that can be recounted often but never forgotten.
The long, exciting and often uncomfortable wait. The dreaming, the planning, and yet the sense of unreality that parents go through during the months of pregnancy. The negotiations and fun of playing with names as different possibilities are raised, considered seriously or laughed out of court.
Then there is the change in public privacy and intimacy. People cannot help intruding into the privacy of the mother. Even strangers ask personal details of when the baby is due and whether the parents know the sex of the child, and how many children they have already or whether this is the first. And as the pregnancy becomes more visible, the desire to touch the mother’s extended abdomen seems to overwhelm even some otherwise quite private and conservative people.
The uncertainty surrounding the time of the baby’s arrival, gives a sense of drama and excitement. They often do not understand this herald that life is from here on to be seriously out of their control. It is an early indication that in family negotiations the two adults are now going to have to consult three wills. And this third will may not be as reasonable as either of theirs.
But when the time comes the day creates a different perception of time. It is long and yet traumatically sudden. It can be excruciatingly painful and yet overwhelmingly joyful. The sight of this new child transforms the meaning of the tears in the eyes. The long wait to meet the one who has caused such discomfort, nausea and pain—is replaced with the wonder and surprise at seeing such a helpless little creature.
And what a creature this is—so human. People always express amazement at the delicate precision of the hands and feet, the fingers, toes and ears and nose. And the sense of incredulity that one so small and helpless can be so perfect and complete.
The birth of another human links society together. Telephone calls, visits, emails, text-messages, photographs, and congratulations pour out and in, as all the family and friends join in the pleasure. Looking for the family similarities, holding, and cuddling the newborn are all part of the enjoyment.
In the last few weeks around the congregations of the Cathedral there have been several births, with a few more expected in the next weeks. Back in April, Matthew was born to Peter and Kath Cook. In May, Hudson was born to Danny and Kay Jang. In June, we have already had four births with more to come. Anna was born to Michael and Julie Morrow, Isabella to David and Shellee Marcos, Freddie to Ross and Georgie Cobb, and a little girl to Toby and Liz Neal. As I write, Stuart and Lesley Glass are due to be going to hospital for Lesley to give birth to their second child. But this is not the end of the babies for 2007. We are looking forward to new arrivals for the Noakes, the Newlings, the Andrews and the Smarks.
Mr Costello famously called upon the nation to have three children, one for dad, one for mum, and one for the country. He should not be disappointed with the Cathedral congregation. But yet one mother told me that if she met Mr Costello she would assure him that she was not having any children for mum, dad or the country. All her children were for God.
It is hard to think of anything that compares to the birth of a child. It is so wondrous an event. And yet becoming a Christian is talked of in terms of “rebirth”. For out of the pain of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, comes new life. For when he rose from the grave to sit at God’s right hand, he poured out his Spirit upon people. And this Spirit of God was the Spirit who breathed life into man in the beginning of creation. So this Spirit of God brings people to new life. For those who are dead are raised up to new life in Christ Jesus.
The birth of any child is a normal miracle. The rebirth of any sinner is an extraordinary miracle. As we give thanks for the recent births and pray for the mothers who are yet to give birth let us also thank God for recent rebirths and pray that many more may be born again for God.