This is a place for me to reflect on the believer's relationship with God and others. For the most part I am just thinking out loud - not offering answers so much as asking questions. Your comments are encouraged.The God of all has written upon our hearts. What will we then write?
Saturday, December 22, 2012
I Want to Wish You a Paradoxical Christmas
Feliz Navidad is one
of the more popular and cheerful Christmas songs (one of my personal favorites)
written and sung by Jose Feliciano in English and part Spanish. In this
special season I join with Feliciano’s song to say, “I want to wish you a Merry
Christmas”. I wish you this, but I want to wish you
something more. Though not as festive and catchy as the song, admitting it
doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and though it is not a conventional
yuletide greeting, I want to wish you a Paradoxical Christmas.
Consider Christmas paradox: on one hand
it is an easy narrative, not too complex, a simple story. We often call it The Christmas Story - a story easily read
by small children and complicated only by the beauty of the King James Version.
The story seems to hover and glide along with effortless flow, like a cup of
hot chocolate that’s not too hot to guzzle.
Simple enough, yet at the same time it carries
a transcendent weightiness exceeding the plain words of the story. That is to
say, the narrative delivers a sense of glory (The Hebrew kabowd, often translated glory,
implies weightiness as in splendor or significance). The story is simple and
yet it is splendid.
The paradox continues as the story
juxtaposes the glorious with the common and every day. The parents in the story have
come to Bethlehem merely for the census while wise men from the east come
because they have seen his star. They have come to worship. Plain ole shepherds
encounter an angel messenger and a heavenly host announcing “good news and tidings of great joy…Unto you
is born this day in the City of David a Savior…” This glorious transaction
is not given to magistrates, governors or king’s men, but to ordinary
It is a story of livestock, stable and
feeding troth - it is a story of treasure; gold, frankincense and myrrh. The
earthly and the heavenly, the ordinary and the divine, the common and the holy…It
is the revelation of God, heaven breaking in upon earth, eternity breaking in on
time. Mortal man was given a glimpse into the other side while the temple veil
that would be torn in two some thirty-three years later was already beginning
to show a tear.
Some would eventually call this event Jesus’
birthday. “Happy Birthday Jesus” they glibly say. But perhaps in this they
confuse (if not abuse), the paradox. Rather than juxtaposing the common and
divine, as does the biblical narrative, they make the divine common which is, by
definition, to profane.
This advent is something much more than
a birthday and a baby. This is an event some still say never happened – that it
could not happen – it is just too glorious to have happened. It was not a birthday
so much as the moment of incarnation, a pivot point in history when the eternal
Creator God (the Holy Other) is enfleshed, takes on humanity - the separated
One suddenly becomes close.
A simple story - baby Jesus baby born
in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger - a story we can
wrap our minds around, and yet a story that defies our absolute understanding.
Incarnation of the Divine just isn’t a simple thing. It is paradox.
It may seem like a child’s story –
something confined to fairytale books with other enchanted fables, myths and
legends. But this story will not stay in a book or be confined to mere words.
This story lives, breath off the page and into life. As heaven broke into earth
some two thousand years ago, the Christmas story yet lives today. A simple
story, but the glory it carries is undeniable.
A spirit accompanies the story that
words and concepts cannot completely convey. To do justice to the story requires an appeal to music and
the other arts. Art can transcend words and the conceptual and we need this to
tell this story. That is why some of the most majestic music in the world is
Christmas music. Art is required to express the wonder of Christmas.
Words are insufficient, so Christmas is
expressed with decorated trees, lights, ornamental pieces, golden angels,
stars, tinsel and other things that sparkle, catch and divide light. We
celebrate with gatherings, ceremony, festival, parade, dinner parties, dramatic
presentations and gifts. Gift-giving is off the charts during the Christmas
And note that it is a season. We do not observe a mere
Christmas Day for it has claimed for itself a season, and so we make reference
to Christmastime. One day cannot
contain the glory, so it is not just a day of gift giving, but a time and a
season for giving - a season of parties, pageant and parade. Words are not
enough and neither is one day. It requires ornamentation, decoration, scents, lighted
candles and music for an entire season.
The first Christmas was a great joy to
some, a threat/offense to others and surprise to all. The same is true today. Some
disparage the surrounding traditions of Christmas, but the entourage of customs
that accompany and escort the season forward is testimony to the greatness of
the holiday. The sacraments of Christmas are many. Someone say pumpkin pie, cookies
and candy are not what Christmas is about. True, but the observance of Christmastime
deserves these things and more.
Gift giving is not what Christmas is about,
and yet gift giving is what Christmas is about. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Isa 9:6). So
here’s wishing you a Paradoxical Christmas! Enjoy the video. Feliz Navidad!