A republishing of a post from December, 2011, at the request of a friend. Christmas has more sadness woven in the lining now for me than it used to, and I would have written this post differently today than I did 7 Christmases ago. But I’m glad I wrote it then and not now, because the sheer joy of it rips off my crusty shell and tells me that even sadness only makes the magic more beautiful. Immanuel. God with us. The magical, miracle, Christ.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1: 1-4
The opening words of Hebrews rival the opening words of Genesis (“In the beginning God…”) and John (“In the beginning was the Word…”) for first place in my heart. Full of literary quality, they thrill me each time I read them for I imagine the author writing not only as a theologian, but as an artist as well. Long ago, at many times and in many ways…
It is the paring of both rich theology and poetic language that makes me love Hebrews so, and as I’ve been reading and re-reading the book these past few weeks while being surrounded by Christmas, I find it is the same paring that makes me adore the Season of Incarnation.
Christmas is the most astounding of theologies, and is wrought out through the most poetic of expressions. Christmas takes the deep things of God and places them in the deep parts of me, and does so through sparkling, caroling magic. It’s preposterous mystery (God became man!), nonsensical innocence (a man birthed through a womb!), profound profession (He loved us this much!), brimful of adoration (angels! shepherds! stars! kings! gold! myrrh! dancing babes in wombs! worshipful Anna! weeping Simeon!) and replete with promise (he became sin who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God).
As I read Hebrews I am struck by the fact that Christ could not be a PERFECT savior unless he became one of us. He needed flesh and blood and temptation and hardship; he needed labor, heartache, emotion, loss, hope, perseverance, suffering, submission and victory; he needed life and he needed death, and he needed all of these as a Man. So he broke through the cosmos and took on our sin, labored in our skin, and bore our very flesh and brokenness: to the cross, through the grave, and into eternal life. I am moved to know that the perfect God did not consider salvation complete without becoming just like me. It’s unabashed devotion, this “I love you so much that I choose to have the full experience of who you are and what you go through, and I will take it all on and bear it completely, and through myself make you whole.”
Christmas sparkles. It shimmers and shines, twinkles and teases, tickles the heart and makes child-like the mind. Christmas sweeps us with nostalgia, and fills us with hope, even as it bores home our sadness. Each candle, each light, harkens back to resplendent angels, bright new stars, awe-struck shepherds and dusty kings. Memories are stirred in each of us, memories from ages past, where heaven and earth touched, where time was split, where knees bowed and legs ran, and Mary’s womb was opened-where God became Man.
I am surrounded by packages. My closet is full of secret things, the mail each day brings shushed surprises, the tree grows fatter, the stockings grow bulkier, and little children peer at the calendar to count the days. There’s a giddiness, an anticipation, and I squeeze my heart tight and imagine the angels must have felt just this way…if angels have the gift of feeling.
And the Father? Sending the gift of his Son? In such a small way do we feel as he felt in the hint of question surrounding the gifts we give our children, our friends: will they accept this? Will it speak to their heart? Will they love it? Will they love Him? “Oh children, give your hearts to me.”
The Incarnation bursts with generosity. It is love lavished upon us, and we are compelled in spite of ourselves to worship the Father, adore the Son, and to GIVE good gifts to those we love. We cannot help it. The theology of God is turned entirely magical, and we are utterly under its spell.