The Joy of Christmas …or…The Grace of Christ is Alive and Well

So much is wonderful about the Christmas season.  In our tumultuous times the  days between Thanksgiving and December 25th, known also as the season of Advent,  are filled with miraculous softening of hearts and with extentions of grace,  both large and small.

You cannot say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” without a smile turning the corners of your mouth and your heart feeling a sense of love and warmth.  These smiles and feelings of joy are God’s gifts of common grace bestowed  by the giver of peace.  The blessing of Christmas is universal. Those who do not celebrate Christ-mas are able to receive blessings from the one who is celebrated…

I am especially touched by the increase in “good” news reported during the days of Advent.  It seems even the media is affected, bringing a glimmer of hope into our homes  amidst the saturation of distressing daily events.   I read the following story this morning and was reminded of the “best” news, the gospel, that reaches out for all, including, perhaps especially, the “least of these.”

DOVER, N.J. — Two Delbarton School boys clad in school uniforms — khakis, dark sports coats and green ties — were solemn as they bore a tiny casket across the snow-covered ground.The small, white coffin held the body of an abandoned infant boy who was being laid to rest at the historic Orchard Street cemetery in Dover, just 3½ miles from where the boy’s body was found in Mine Hill in October. 

The pallbearers — members of Wave-4-Live, a pro-life ministry at the Roman Catholic school in Morristown — were burying the child because of their chosen spiritual work: honoring unclaimed bodies for burial.

Earlier Monday, before the interment, the schoolboys, who petitioned the Morris County Superior Court to obtain the infant’s remains, held a funeral at the school’s St. Mary’s Abbey Church in Morris Township. It was the ministry’s fourth, and its second for a stillborn, Wave-4-Life adviser and Delbarton science teacher Elizabeth Mainairdi said.

As the students did their duty, eight of their peers, also clad in their Delbarton uniforms, stood by, holding white lilies and gerbera daisies. Above them, the sky was overcast, and the snow crunched as they walked toward the plot, donated by the cemetery, where they laid Anthony Mary — the name they’d chosen for the infant — in his grave.

The students huddled around the burial plot, nestled on a hillock among graves of Civil War soldiers, as the Rev. Hilary O’Leary read the Rite of Committal.After prayers, the preparatory school students gently placed their flowers on the boy’s casket before it was entombed. 

“We think every life is worth a shot and worth a fight,” John Manahan, a Delbarton junior, reflected after the services. 

Monday’s scene in Dover brought touching closure to a tragic case that unfolded in late October. On Oct. 24, the stillborn boy was found at the privately owned ReCommunity Recycling Center on Iron Mountain Road in Mine Hill. An employee found the body while sorting through recyclables brought in by trucks from at least 15 municipalities in Morris, Sussex and Warren counties. After an investigation by the Morris County Medical Examiner and the Prosecutor’s Office, Delbarton gained custody of the boy’s body and students prepared for his funeral. 

Earlier at St. Mary’s Abbey, Billy Schroeder, a senior at the elite high school, was composed as he eulogized Anthony Mary in front of 100 fellow students, parents and faculty members gathered for the Mass of Christian burial celebrated by the O’Leary. Others in the Wave-4-Life club served as pallbearers, altar boys, vocalists and Scripture readers. 

“We recognize that his mother is probably scared, heartbroken and distraught,” Schroeder said. “Just as we pray for baby Anthony, we should pray for his mother and father in this difficult time. Even when our society may not show respect for each and every life, we believe in the sanctity of life.” 

Upon hearing about the baby, Mainardi, the adviser, contacted attorney Drew Bauman, a former priest who has arranged guardianships for hundreds in his legal career. Working with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and county Medical Examiner’s Office, Bauman received permission from the Superior Court on Dec. 8 to serve as administrator over the deceased child so Delbarton could hold a funeral and bury him.

Students echoed O’Leary’s funeral remarks that every life is precious. “We don’t want this child to be forgotten. We’ve come here out of love and respect,” O’Leary said.

Students sang the school’s hymn, Be Thou My Vision, as a classmate carried a crucifix and led the young pallbearers out of the church to the waiting hearse. Next to the casket was a framed message from Scripture that read: “You are worth more than many sparrows.”

“We showed today to Anthony Mary that he’s part of the Delbarton community, and we want to extend our love to him and his parents,” Manahan said. Junior Finn Gannon, one of the two pallbearers, said the funeral was a natural extension of his belief that each life is sacred and valued. 

Christmas grace is alive and well. The grace of Christ is alive and well.

 I will not die but live and proclaim what God has done. PS 118:17

About Tommye Lambert

Tommye Lambert is the founder and President of Live and Proclaim Ministries Tommye is a teacher, speaker, writer, and minister. Tommye has written and edited devotional journals, articles, small group Bible studies, church-wide curricula, and is a regular blogger. She speaks at retreats, workshops, worship services, and teaches in a variety of settings. Tommye serves on the Board of Directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) as the national patient voice representative for pulmonary medicine. Tommye is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry at Beeson Divinity School. After a seventeen-year career in healthcare, Tommye resigned her laboratory medicine management position in 1996 when her husband was diagnosed with leukemia. She entered Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in 1998, earned an MDIV from Beeson in 2002, and served on the ministerial staff at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Alabama, from 1998 until 2011. In late 2011, Tommye left ministry service at Hunter Street to become full time caregiver to her daughter, Amy. who went to heaven in November 2013. Tommye is married to Kerry and is the mother of four adult daughters. Tommye and Kerry are active members of Hunter Street Baptist Church where she teaches in Wednesday Night Life.

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