A fire makes its heartening presence known, tucked under the hearth upon which hang individual stockings and an antique clock I inherited from my Dad. A delightfully chaotic looking tree, augmented with bobbles made by the growing dexterity of my boys’ fingers – the accumulated little-boy detritus of Christmas past – stands guard at another window gazing out on a trusted neighbor’s house. Snow falls without sound or pretense just past living room windows that shield us from the oblique, grey winter, and all I can think is this: if Christmas, I.e. the incarnation, God with us, means anything at all, it must mean more than the Thomas Kinkade painting I’ve just described. It must have the same insidious undercurrent, rife with danger, of the stable. It must reek of real life spread out over a table of ambiguity and hopelessness scrounging for scraps of hope. It must mean that God is longing to burst forth into our own souls, finding enough room to receive the gifts of our own inner Magi. It must be genuine, like the rough and tumble character of a once-upon-a-time, ramshackle stable.
It was messy and scary and uncertain, but the perfect crucible in which to illustrate all that is truly important: the broken, smelly manger of human hearts made ready to receive the only thing powerful enough to draw them out of pain and darkness, God himself. And, apparently, God loves children. Enough to become one.
Not a soldier.
Not a business man.
Not a political revolutionary.
A crying child laying somewhere so shocking that he would be handily removed from us by social services. Understand that this was God’s chosen means of getting our attention, then study the faces of your frail, trusting and needy children and read the story again.
Yeah, it’s like that.
O come, o come, Emmanuel…