A New Life

Don Southworth

DECEMBER IS A BUSY month for everyone. But it seems especially busy for clergy and those who work with money.

If you work with money, there are important tasks to complete, such as planning for taxes, ensuring your investment allocations are where they should be, making charitable contributions, and getting ready for the new financial year.

Meanwhile, when I was serving a congregation as a minister, December was full of gatherings and services to celebrate the traditions and holidays that come this time of year. I’d lead classes and services on the wisdom of the world’s religions, and talk about things such as holiday depression, generosity and self-care.

There were sweets to prepare and eat, carols to sing and candles to light, culminating in the Christmas Eve services, when we’d gather to tell ancient stories, rejoice in community, and remember the hope and peace possible in our hearts and our world.

I’ve been reminded in the past few weeks of my favorite Christmas Eve service. That year, a couple decided to have their baby dedicated on Christmas Eve. A child dedication in my religious tradition is when we celebrate the child. The parents, family, friends and congregation publicly vow to love, cherish and teach each child as he or she grows. Prayers would be recited, blessings would be shared, and the magic and hope that come with each new life would be remembered.

Many celebrate Christmas because, in the Christian tradition, it’s a time to honor and remember the birth of Jesus. But most historians agree that late December is not Jesus’ birthday. The birth of Jesus, the lighting of a menorah and welcoming the winter solstice are three of the many traditions we celebrate to prepare for the darkness that comes this time of year.

The birth of a baby is a time to rejoice and remember hope every day of the year. I was reminded of that on Nov. 24, when our first grandchild, Cassandra Marie, was born. It’s been a long time since I had the joy of rocking a new baby in my arms, and cooing love and prayers into little ears.

It’s a feeling that money can’t buy and something that all of us need to experience. My wife and I had long ago set aside our dreams of grandchildren because our boys didn’t seem to share those dreams. But our oldest son fell in love, and Cassie is now in our lives.

What does all this have to do with money? A lot and a little. Having a new grandchild changes the dynamics of our financial plans. Do we want to move back to California to be closer to family? How much should we allocate to her future education needs and how should we do that? What about estate planning? How generous do we want to be to our family, and maybe also to others who have new babies but may not have the support system and resources Cassie has been born into?

Time and counsel will help answer those questions. But more important than those answers is what a new baby reminds us of, and why we need to celebrate during these days of literal and metaphorical darkness in the world. Sophia Lyon Fahs wrote a poem titled Each Night a Child Is Born Is a Holy Night, which I would read almost every Christmas Eve. The poem ends with the words:

Each night a child is born is a holy night—

A time for singing,

A time for wondering,

A time for worshipping.

And, I would add, a time for hoping and remembering. Hoping that each new life brings with it more peace and joy. And remembering that each of us can love a little more and share more generously—every day.

Don Southworth is a semi-retired minister, and financial and leadership consultant, living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Don is passionate about the intersection between spirituality and money, and he encourages people to follow their callings wherever they lead. Follow Don on X (Twitter) @Calltrepreneur and check out his earlier articles.

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