Saturday, December 24, 2005

O Holy Night

The world (or at least that part of the world that is still alive, that still can feel and hope) waits breathlessly under a starry sky, watching, listening, yearning to be born anew—yearning for Christ to be born anew in all broken hearts, all suffering bodies, all thirsting souls.

He alone is the answer to the questions we perhaps have not even been able yet to formulate, that lie struggling within us, inchoate, haunting, but urgent nonetheless. We must know, but we’re not sure what we must know, or where to turn. Usually our questions begin with “why?” but the real issue is too deep, too complex to be put as a simple query. So we walk with a nameless dis-ease, a confused longing, a frightening suspicion that something is really wrong here, but with a total absence of the far-sighted wisdom that brings confidence and peace.

Into all this comes the Child. He’s the One who set the stars in their places and thought up the DNA molecule and made immortal souls. Sometimes it’s hard for Him, though, to answer our inarticulate questions directly, because we ourselves don’t really know what we’re asking, and we probably couldn’t begin to understand the answer anyway. So He decided to simply come and be with us. He would leave us with a few words to ponder and to live, but what He really came to do was to absorb into Himself all our confusion and darkness and wrongheaded lashing-out, bearing its immense pressure and emerging, diamond-like, from the crushing weight. Having done that, He goes about making little jewels out of the rest of us, though not sparing us a similar crucible. The prophet said He’d make the rough way smooth, but neglected to indicate how far that process would cross our thresholds of pain.

So we’re probably not going to receive the clear, logical, satisfying answers we’d like to receive. We’re going to be placed in a Child’s hands, squeezed, even crushed, until all our self-inflicted miseries are wrung free, and the Child’s eyes shall widen with delight as we come forth all-shining from his hands—his little, pierced hands.

That’s why tonight is called the Holy Night. It’s the Advent of the Answer. He has come from a far country, across an infinite bridge that could only be constructed of his own flesh. That’s the only way by which we can return to Paradise—yes, that is at the root of our nameless unrest: we desire profoundly to return from exile, but we do not even know our own home, let alone the way. Jesus is the Way to God, for He is the Way from God to us. When Mary said yes, humanity rose from the dead. Our cold flesh received the Divine Fire; we were given ears to hear the Voice that Lazarus heard on the fourth day of his incredible sojourn.

The Lord is not merely the cosmic Problem Solver; He simply is. For Him to be means the universe is charged with love and we are destined for everlasting joy. If we can begin to grasp that, we will discover the most simple, yet most inscrutable truth: for God to be God is for us to know peace, even in the midst of the perplexities and sufferings of the human condition. Emmanuel, God is with us; come, let us adore Him.

I don’t suppose this is your standard Christmas meditation. Today, it just couldn’t be.