Thursday, December 23, 2010

 This year our church put together a series of devotionals for Advent, and everyone was invited to contribute. This was my reflection on Christmas:
 We do not understand mercy.  

We live in this world, this realm of logic and reason; highways and alarm clocks and Wal-Mart, among straight lines and taxes and two plus two always equals four, and so we cannot help but fit our religion into a belief that is reasonable as well.  We begin to think that we know what we know, and when we do stop to taste the peach or to bounce a baby, when we dare to look up and marvel that the sky is pink and wonder at the lump that forms in our throat, we must choose to either shake off that sense of longing, or humbly give thanks for a mercy that comes to us in our mess, but that we cannot begin to understand.

Christmas disrupts all of our assumptions about God.  It is the Great Surprise, for who would dare to believe in a mercy this tender- a helpless newborn?  Or so accessible- a stable?  Who would be brave enough to suggest that God became a baby?  Our logic falls short, we cannot understand it, we can hardly believe it.  We use words that attempt to sum up our surprise:  Incarnation.  Trinity.  Word made flesh.  But it all comes down to a mercy so infinitely powerful that it was freely given up to become infinitely small, a fertilized egg.  How can this be?  

It seems so appropriate that the story be given each year to children to enact.  For aren’t we secretly looking to them for insight, asking them to teach us something about these things which we have grown too old to understand?   Children whose belief has not yet been dulled by reason or logic, who gladly accept mercy and affection they have not earned, whose imagination exults in the impossible.   It is only the young or young at heart foolish enough to follow stars or listen to angels, and they are those worthy to lead us to Bethlehem.  

Christmas points me to children for wisdom and shames my attempts at earning God’s approval.  It reminds me to leave room in my small understanding for God to surprise me.  I do not understand the incarnation, but like a child, I can rejoice in it.

Each year Christmas, and all that goes along with it- the lights, the gifts, the pageant- tell me again about a mercy so gentle that it cries, and so huge that it lights up the sky.  

Too good to be true, but true.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor.9:15)

 Jesus intervened: "Let the children alone, don't prevent them from coming to me. God's kingdom is made up of people like these." (Matt.9:15, the Message)
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas celebrating the mystery of the Incarnation- God With Us! 
Peace and Love,


Ruth said...


Fijufic said...

I pray for mercy rather often. Unfortunately I reserve this for the terminally ill....

Nice post. Hope you and yours have a wonderful and Merry Christmas.

It has been nice getting to know you and your family through your journal.

I look forward to your posts and thoughts.


K said...

What a beautiful post. I followed Ruth's link over here and am glad I did. We're friends of Ruth's in Haiti- we also blog at And I just borrowed your Mary Oliver quote- wow. Merry Christmas :) Katie

Tisa said...


Tisa said...