Christmas comes again this year as it always does, the poet’s voice assures.
Accompanied by carols and cards and gifts beneath the tree.
Christmas comes in its own most predictable way—tales of shepherds asleep in the fields, songs that angels sing, a star—a brilliant star—shattering clouds gathered in the cold night sky then leading the curious, the longing and the dubious as well to that place where love itself takes on our most unwieldy human shape.
We gather here before the cross, before the table on this cold and crusty winter morn. Again we hear the words we know so well.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
In the beginning—that’s so very long ago. Another time. Another place. Alien and unfamiliar. Easy to hold at arm’s length.
But what if we hear these words a different way? What if we hear them in a different tone? A different tense?
In the beginning is the word and the word is with God and the word is God….
What is coming into being in him is life, and the life is the light of all people.
The light is shining in the darkness and the darkness is not overcoming it.
The Word is becoming flesh and is living among us, and we are seeing his glory….
Word, love itself, being made flesh—being enfleshed in us—in you and me
In the parts we proudly show like peacocks fluffing out our plumes of generosity and kindness and wisdom and keen insights too!
And in those parts we try to hide in the back corners of the closets that are a part of all our lives–those parts we know all too well.
The Word –Love itself– moving in right here in this very space that makes up our lives and the world in which we live.
Pitching a tent in our most human fields of failures and successes and loving kindness and callousness and cruelty too—a world where polar bears perch on the shore of a sea without an iceberg and a world of war where children no longer have tears to shed.
Light shining through the darkness of all the muck and madness of our world and of our lives as well.
Light illuminating the way to that manger where Love takes on our most human shape.
A moment when we sing in heartfelt voices, “Joy to the World/The Lord has come/Let earth prepare Him room.”
Prepare him room.
The prophet Isaiah puts it this way: “Prepare a way in the wilderness. Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley”
Preparing a way.
Smoothing out the rough places.
Clearing away the boulders.
Preparing room for the Word to move in and live and love and work with us.
In another—yet not so different—time and place, the poet and preacher Howard Thurman wrote,
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
Again this year that’s the work of Christmas. The work of the Word being enfleshed in us.