A new-born child took his first breath in a stable on Christmas Day, 2,016 years ago. The story of the birth of Jesus, recounted in the Gospel of Luke, is one known to every Christian since childhood. That scene depicted in countless nativity settings with farm animals and shepherds huddling around the mother and father could easily be viewed as a helpless situation without knowing the Biblical story.
Yet, the second verse of the Christmas song, Away in the Manger, begins “the cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.”
On Saturday, December 10, 2,016 years after the birth of Jesus, a child took his last breath from the one lung left in his seven-year-old body. In his bed in a farmhouse near Ottawa, Kansas, the child could not move or speak leading up to the fateful day in a hospital. Cancer, in a form so rare it did not have a name, ravaged the boy’s body and left him completely helpless. The boy could no longer cry. Instead, his parents cried. Those that knew the boy cried. The news of the death of Cole Hayden left all feeling completely helpless.
On that first Christmas Day, the angels brought “tidings of great joy which will be to all people,” as told in Luke 2, not to the high priests of the church but instead to shepherds, “watching over their flocks by night.” Shepherds of the day were considered to be truly “lowly,” living with little hope of a better life. Their lives seemed helpless, but God knows we are just as hopeless in our sin without our Savior.
Then why in a helpless state can doubt not fill the minds of people wondering where was the “great joy” for all the people as rampaging cancer overwhelmed the body of Cole that confounded the finest doctors in the United States? Time and again though, God quietly called out to us in his fight helping us awaken to our hopeless state.
As Jesus grew into manhood and began his ministry, people brought children to him, but his disciples rebuked them as written in Luke 18: 16-17.
“But, Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, ‘Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no way enter therein.'”
“As a little child.” Helpless. Dependent on their earthly saviors, mother and father, and eternally, their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. While we celebrate that humble, yet glorious, birth 2,016 years ago and the message of eternal hope, we also can celebrate God’s humble yet glorious message, that is our hope for hopelessness.
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1: 15
Today on Christmas, Laura and I pray for Cole’s mother, Shanda, one of the two academic counselors for the KU football team and a colleague of Laura’s. We pray for her husband, Steve, a successful farmer and rancher I followed for a story on the wheat harvest.
We offer our thanks to KU football coach David Beaty and the team members that formed #TeamCole to bring awareness throughout the Jayhawk community over Cole’s battle. That awareness included Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops who spent time with Cole and his family during KU’s visit to Norman this past season.
We pray for and thank Katy Lonergan and Stephanie Mahal, co-workers and part of a group of true friends to Shanda for the endless efforts to help the family.
We pray and thank all we do not even know about for their prayers and the prayers that go out to everyone suffering on this glorious day. We take comfort and joy in the words of the Psalmist in chapter 121 as we wish everyone, Merry Christmas.
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth…The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”