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On the morning of Nov. 17, the hopes and prayers of my family were answered when my sister, Carol, gave birth to a beautiful eight pound, one ounce baby boy named Richard Joaquin Hernandez. Carol had suffered the pain of a miscarriage previously and is approaching the end of her child-bearing years. She and her husband, Joaquin, had longed for a child. Ricky’s arrival into our family was greatly anticipated and the gift of this son will be celebrated by my family throughout Ricky’s life.
Joaquin and Carol are encountering experiences they previously had only heard about from friends and family members who are parents. The first few months of scheduling their lives around the every need of an infant, sleep deprivation, changing diapers, bathing and burping, will take some adjustments, but the reward of having received this precious gift from God is worth every moment of sacrifice.
The birth of my nephew right before the season of Advent brings to mind the title of a song by Faith Hill from her glorious Christmas CD: “A Baby Changes Everything.” For my family, Ricky’s birth has brought a deeper sense of gratitude to God, a stronger sense of love for one another, and a greater understanding of the miracle of life and of the miracle of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.
When Christ was born, everything changed. The choirs of angels sang because God became a baby for us. God put Himself in our hands. God became vulnerable, poor and needy for us, so that we would know the depth of His love for us and so that we would share His love with others. My brother-in-law Joaquin got a sense of the overwhelming power of God’s love and grace as he held his newborn son. He said he never imagined he could feel such an overflowing and powerful love as he does when he holds Ricky.
Because of the birth of Christ, we know and experience the overflowing and powerful love of God for us. As we proclaim at Mass, God sees and loves in us what he sees and loves in Christ. In these final days of Advent, and in preparation for Christmas, let us meditate deeply on the gift of Christ for us. God entered into our world as a vulnerable infant. He was completely dependent on others for his care. His overwhelming love for us has flowed over into the lives of all who have come to know him, just as new parents experience a powerful and all-consuming love for their newborn child. At Christmas we rejoice in the mystery and in the reality that a baby has changed everything.
Father Richard M. Erikson is vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.