I went walking Christmas Eve morning in the local park.
It was the day of the great descent, the day when the ‘Word who was God’ came down to take on human form. I wondered if the host of heaven–all the angels and archangels and ‘cherubim with sleepless eye’–formed a path as the Light of light passed through eternity and into time.
And the Word became flesh
Christmas isn’t a holiday here so there was no sense of anticipation in the air. Instead, similar to that ancient day Christians now celebrate, everyone was going about their business like any other day.
A group of high school girls were on their way to school, talking intently to each other. I looked at their young, fresh faces and thought of Mary who would have been about their age. One girl wore a black coat and black pants, but on her feet were bright pink sneakers. I wondered if Mary was the type to stand out in the crowd.
and made His dwellings among us
All the Christmas songs that came up on my MP3 mix were in a melancholic, minor key: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, The Wexford Carol, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Plaintive, pleading songs that hold the sadness of broken hearts mourning in lonely exile. I feel that too these days, grieving the loss of my father and the smaller hurt of not having any family close by for the holidays.
And yet even in the minor key, the refrain echoes on:
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
He came to us, we who are made in God’s image. In being born, He was made into our image, emptied of all but love. He came to a dirty, dusty world and lived among the poor, the greedy, the impatient, the deformed, the arrogant. He experienced human tiredness, human pain, human joy.
Sometimes we speak as if God needed to become incarnate so that He would be acquainted with our sorrows. But that’s backwards. The all-knowing Creator already knew every crevice of the human heart.
The difference is that now *we* know that He knows. Thanks to the incarnation, I know He understands what I feel, including the strong and confusing emotions that sometimes surge through me.
I follow Him with quiet confidence as I go through the valley of weeping and the shadow of death. I know He has walked this path before me.
“O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.”
Now burn, new born to the world,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled.
Gerard Manly Hopkins