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Welcoming a Child

Our senses work overtime during Advent. Our skin comes alive from the chill in the air. Colors seem brighter and clearer, smells more intense. Our taste buds explode from special treats and festive meals.

Our senses work overtime during Advent. Our skin comes alive from the chill in the air. Colors seem brighter and clearer, smells more intense. Our taste buds explode from special treats and festive meals.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Perhaps best of all, we hear more keenly, not just with our ears, but with our hearts. The carols, the bells, the excited voices of children, all are happy sounds we anticipate and then cherish long after the season has passed.
 
Other sounds, equally compelling but not nearly as loud or joyful, can easily become muffled. Yet these sounds beg us to remember that, although the child whose coming we anticipate indeed came for everyone, celebration for many is difficult, because:
 
–One in seven women in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Africa dies from pregnancy-related causes.
 
–Though only 20 percent of the total births take place there, 40 percent of the total worldwide maternal deaths occur in Africa.
 
–The risk of pregnancy-related deaths is 100 times greater in Africa than in Europe.
 
–In the United States, approximately 12 maternal deaths occur for every 100,000 pregnancies. In Africa, the number of maternal deaths for the same number of pregnancies is 870.
 
–Of 200 million pregnancies each year, 100 million will end in death or disability for the mother.
 
Against odds equally challenging and likely much greater, a young teenaged mother gave birth more than 2,000 years ago in a stable where animals ate and slept. The ensuing life of her child changed everything for eternity.
 
One tangible way we can again welcome the Christ child into the world is to welcome other children who, at best, have a precarious chance for survival. We can make a profound difference in their lives, and in the lives of their mothers.
 
Global Women, an organization designed to take Christian ministry and witness to women, encourages individuals and groups to assemble birthing kits that they will then distribute around the world. With items like disposable gloves, antibacterial soap and gauze pads, these kits greatly improve the rate of survival for mothers and babies. (Click here for more information.)
 
During this Advent season, listen. Listen not just with your ears, but also with your heart. Listen carefully to those things you might not want to hear, reports that remind you that all some mothers dare to hope for their children is a chance for survival. Listen for concrete ways to welcome the child whose birth creates this season of anticipation and hope.
 
Listen, take action and offer hope.
 
Jesus said, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these … you did it to me” (Matt 25 40b).
 
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.
 
Click here to order Leading Churches into 21st Century Missions: 13 Lessons in Acts from Acacia Resources.
 
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