December 24, 2007
Many years ago around this time of year I would read the story of Christmas from my grandmother’s Bible. It was the King James Version, with all the “thee’s” and “thou’s” intact and words like “holpen” and the classic “my soul doth magnify the Lord…” There was something about reading that most wonderful story in a kind of English now far removed from the banality of every language. There still is.
And the story itself is wonderful, profound, full of angels, shepherds, and wise men coming from distant lands. Imagine what it must have been like to see the sky lit up with angels in the small hours of the morning! How can a heart not be drawn to that first cry, the sound of the king of glory entering his own world in a humble cave. Truly all the artificial and commercial trappings of this time pale compared to the simple richness and depth of that night recorded by those who came to know and love Jesus.
But the greatest wonder still remains, not in the details, but in the why of it all. Why would God do this? What compelled God to come to this little blue circle in the depths of space and pay us any heed at all?
Our faith tells us that God has no need we can fulfill. God is complete in His Trinitarian unity, fully self-sufficient, perfect within himself. To survive we humans need each other but God has no such need for any other than himself.
And frankly it should be noted that our record as a species on this planet has been remarkably less than stellar. Had this world been created without people it would still be a pristine paradise, it’s inhabitants living without preying on each other in a garden of plenty perfectly created and maintained for life. No one can argue that God would, having placed us here, be perfectly just in simply speaking a word and destroying everything to rid his creation of the pests we have become.
Yet God chose to create, and God chose to create us. And then when we had become the most serious kind of nuisance and by our sin infected the whole of what he had made, he chose again not to destroy us or abandon us in an endless cycle of brokenness but rather came to us in the most humble of ways, a million times more profound than a human becoming an ant, to save us from ourselves.
There is no reason for this that any human can fathom. But in the glimpses and shadows we do observe we can at least partially understand the existence of a kind of love, awesome in its magnificence, unsoundable in its depths, a love that the keenest intellects and holiest souls only see in the smallest of fragments but yet is real and perpetually reaching out to us from the very heart of God.
There simply is no human equivalent to this. It eclipses us. It shatters our feeble attempts to comprehend it. The appreciation of even the smallest bit of it can pierce our soul and tear every bit of darkness out of us. And if by some measure of pride or hubris we think we may possess it, it humbles us and we stand in a place beyond words, capable only of awe.
It’s the “why” of this night, as St. John says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” This love is what makes this night holy. This love is the gift beyond all others. This love remains the song of angels calling us to the hope of hopes and the star that leads all who are wise to Christ.