Beer. BBQ. Baby. One of these things is not like the other ones.
Yet recently the three converged. The location: a backyard Aussie get-together. The occasion: I was to dedicate Miss Aleisia Rose, a flowering new-born cherub among the thorns of burly blokes and irreligious onlookers. Normally Aussies gather for a backyard BBQ to talk about the footy or the latest pellet grill reviews over a beer. But that day we reflected on a baby. So what’s the deal?
Well, let’s backtrack a bit.
I’ve heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world: when trees are waving wildly in the wind, one group of people thinks that it’s the wind that moves the trees; the other group thinks that the motion of the trees creates the wind. For most of human history, people always believed that there was something invisible, even mystical—call it God—that gave energy to the stuff we see moving about us. But nowadays, it’s tempting to ignore the invisible, the spiritual, and act as though life just is—the world just moves, and those superstitious or religious ones have invented God to give it meaning.
But I think most Aussies fit a third category of people: we act as if trees move by themselves, but every now and then the wind takes us by surprise.
Generally we go about our lives as though the material world is all there is … our jobs, our cars, our budgets, the day-to-day grind. But if you catch us at just the right time, we sense deep down that there has to be something more.
Maybe it takes the death of a loved one. Or the most amazing sunset over the waters. But when that moment comes, it’s like we wake up to the mystery, the wind blowing the trees, and we sense the spiritual. Perhaps we even sense God.
I think Ed Kowalczyk knows. Maybe you’ve heard of Ed … he’s the lead singer of one of my favourite bands, Live. They wrote songs like “Lightning Crashes” and “The Dolphin’s Cry”—incredibly powerful music and lyrics. Anyway, Ed was brought up in a Christian family. And I gather over the years he saw a lot of hypocrisy, from his dad, and the church. So he dumped it all and decided that trees just move, and the wind is an illusion—all this God stuff’s a farce. His album Throwing Copper ripped shreds off the church. And you’d think nothing could change this guy’s mind. He flirted with Eastern Religions and atheism, and pretty much lived for himself.
But one day it all changed. His eyes opened to wonder. Why?
His baby girl was born. That’s what it took. New life. He wrote about it in the song “Heaven”:
I don’t need no one to tell me about heaven
I look at my daughter, and I believe.
I don’t need no proof when it comes to God and truth,
I can see the sunset, and I perceive.
He’s echoing a poem written some 3,000 years earlier in the Bible, by King David, probably after one of his kids was born:
My Creator, you shaped me first inside, then out;
You formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvellously made!
I worship in wonder—what a creation!
It’s no coincidence that the whole Bible speaks of new birth as a turning point. God gave birth to the universe, and his Spirit blows so we can be born again. God himself entered this world as a baby; God was once as innocent and full of wonder as Aleisia Rose. And as one poet wrote, “Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his; to the Father through the features of men’s faces.” But nowhere does God’s love play so beautifully as in the miracle of new birth.
Beer. BBQ. Baby. Perhaps these three things are not so disconnected after all. With the taste of creation fresh on our tongues, no one was so dull as to miss the miracle of this little life. As these burly blokes and irreligious onlookers gathered around Aleisia, we each recaptured something of our own childlike wonder. Once again we sensed the divine breath that blows the trees.
 Gerard Manley Hopkins, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”, as quoted by Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Colorado Springs, CO: Eerdmans, 2005), 1-4, also 49-59.