I have used the story below several times in messages at Christmastime, at Brunswick Church and elsewhere. It bears re-telling this Christmastide.
A Nigerian woman who is a physician at a great teaching hospital in the United States came out of a crowd to say something kind to man who had just finished a lecture. She introduced herself using her American name. “What’s your African name?” he asked. She gave it, in several syllables with a musical sound to it. “What does that mean?” he wondered.
She answered, “It means ‘Child who takes the anger away.’”
He asked why she would have been given that name. She said, “My parents had been forbidden to marry. But they loved each other so that they defied the family opinions and married anyway. For several years they were ostracized from both their families. Then my mother became pregnant with me. And when the grandparents held me in their arms for the first time, the walls of hostility came down. I became the one who swept the anger away. And that’s the name my mother and father gave me.”
That is a simple, yet profoundly lovely story about how a child can change the world. Our world is divided and hurting in so many ways. My country, the United States, is divided in so many ways. Into this world of divisions, need, anger, and struggle, Jesus was born. Therefore, I live in hope. I read the story of his birth. I sing the carols. I hold candles. I pray and I wait in hope.
This season we remember and celebrate the birth of the child sent from heaven to change our world. To take away the anger. To bring peace.
Merry Christmas, Jesus. Merry Christmas, world.