a Christmas moment: holding Jesus

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post something this personal on my weblog, so I wrote this planning to leave it in drafts for a while. Maybe forever.

But then I shared it on an online group, and someone let me know she’d had exactly the same experience, so I figured I’d post.

After Communion on Christmas morning, I was praying about Jesus as a baby: floppy and small and helpless, sweet-smelling with that “brand new baby smell” (the one they can’t wait to wash off in hospitals) and just a little armload: like all newborns.

I remembered a story about how Saint Anthony prayed to be able to hold the baby Jesus, and this was granted to him. I wished I could do the same myself, and immediately I felt God speak to my heart and say that I *had* held Jesus in my arms, and I heard Emily’s name.

For new readers here, Emily was the Kiddo between Kiddo#1 and Kiddo#2. She was diagnosed with anencephaly, a fatal birth defect, when I was 22 weeks pregnant. We carried her to term, and she lived in our arms for two hours after birth.

In the next second, I remembered how Jesus said that whatever we’d done for the least member of the Kingdom of God, we’d done for him. Who could possibly be “less” in the eyes of the world than a baby destined to die due to a birth defect, someone that most of the world didn’t even want to see born?

But in the eyes of the Kingdom of God, because of Emily’s littleness, she WAS Jesus. By holding her, I’d held Jesus. By giving her my love, I’d given love to Jesus in the only way I could at the time. The one way that was in front of me.

I was still tearful hours later, trying to explain that to my Patient Husband. I didn’t expect that at all.

And here’s the reason I finally decided to post: because if I did “hold Jesus” when I had Emily in my arms, it wasn’t because I did anything extraordinary. I just did the thing I saw in front of me to do. ie, You’re the mother of this baby; this baby needs love; love your baby.

We pray a lot for little needs: this one needs a job and that one needs reconciliation with a person who hurt her, and this other person is sick. But what the world truly, honestly needs, is mercy. In Christianity, it seems that Jesus will return at a time when things can’t possibly get worse; I’m told that in Judaism, the Messiah will come once we’ve earned it by bringing the world as close to Eden as we can.

For a minute there, maybe both were true: Your baby is going to die (can’t get worse) but for the moment, you can hold and love her (a moment of Paradise.)

What if, today, we just did “the next good thing” we saw in front of us to do? Picked up that piece of litter on the sidewalk only because it was in front of us. Said something kind to someone only because she looked down. Called a family member because you knew she was lonely. Refilled the paper in the fax machine just because it was empty.

We can’t save the whole world; but we can do the next good thing in front of us. In the end, the good thing in front of us is the only good we’ve been asked to do.


  1. Jenni

    Thanks for posting this – I thought about it all day and smiled when I remembered to show love (as simple as letting someone merge in traffic). I definitely have a ton of room for improvement!

  2. philangelus

    Hey, and given holiday traffic, you may have made someone’s year. 🙂

    I tried to do extra stuff yesterday, in keeping with the spirit. I cleaned up the house extra, vacuumed the stairs, did laundry when I didn’t strictly “have” to, and cleaned up some things as I came across them to clean. I’m generally a slob, so that was big for me, and I really do need to get into the habit more.

  3. Chantell

    I loved this story when you posted it at ABFA and loved it again here. Doing “the next good thing” is truly a great way to live. Thanks again for sharing!