Thursday, December 24, 2009

a little Christmas reflection

It's amazing how much that we, even with the best of intentions, can mangle even the most precious things. You know? Like Christmas. And I'm not even talking about the secular celebration of Christmas, or all the political correctness that makes it hard to even utter "merry Christmas" to a stranger without having second thoughts, in case they might be Muslim or something. I'm talking about ...well, myself, mostly. How even as a lifelong believer, I can let the holiday periphery interfere so markedly with my observance of the true celebration.

Mostly, I think, I get caught up in the fun of Christmas--the traditions, the funny movies, the joy of picking out presents (and opening them). But the true first Christmas wasn't what I'd call "fun", exactly. Joyful, yes--in a way. Joy with a heavy peppering of forthcoming sacrifice and disquiet before it was all over. But there was a lot of hardship and worry, too. A lot of people had to practice a lot of true, steadfast faith in God to make that first Christmas happen. The first Christmas was hard. Hard, gritty, and overwhelmingly sacred.

It strikes me every year, but my re-realization this year has been more profound than usual. Perhaps because taking care of babies makes you realize the indignity and fragility of the human condition. It's hard to imagine anyone in their right mind choosing to be so helpless that they don't even recognize their own limbs, let alone know how to use them. Or volunteering to poop in a diaper for a couple of years and have somebody else clean it up. How much greater a sacrifice would it be for God Himself to make that decision? Every year I try to wrap my mind around it, and every year I fail.

So today I just wanted to post and meditate on Christmas a little bit. I have lots of pictures of babies opening presents, but those can wait. For now, I just want to celebrate Christmas, all by itself. And post a quote from Frederick Buechner that I have loved for many years:

"The Word become flesh. Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed. Incarnation. It is not tame. It is not touching. It is not beautiful. It is uninhabitable terror. It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light. Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself. You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: 'God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God... who for us and for our salvation,' as the Nicene Creed puts it, 'came down from heaven.'

Came down. Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see. It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms. It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast."

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