Did Christmas Teach Us Anything?
Watch for the Many-faced Face.
Posted Dec 30, 2015
For the first time, our two granddaughters took great interest in the manger scene we had on the table in our family room. Makayla, 4, would sit on the arm of the sofa and study all the figures in the scene and then rearrange them in ways that were more meaningful for her. She lined everyone up, including sheep and donkeys, in an arc around the baby, making him the absolute focal point. Gianna, 6, after listening to a storybook about the birth, rearranged the scene again, moving some of the animals out, and bringing the parents back into the center.
Had they wanted, Makayla and Gianna could have rearranged the manger scene over and over, demonstrating that no matter how we looked at it, we were always seeing creative manifestations of the same thing. Perhaps this is true of Christmas as a whole; that despite all evidence to the contrary, and in spite of all the ways it is represented, Christmas, the holy day which has morphed into a holiday, still has a single, solitary meaning---incarnation. A fancy word for the notion that God is here in our midst. A fancy word wrapped in a birth story.
In The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis imagines a scene in which an old man comes to Jesus with a complaint. In all his life, the old man has been a faithful, religious man who has waited all his life for the Lord to descend to earth so that he could see God before he dies.
Jesus replies with a story. There once were a thousand kings blind in the left eye, a thousand kings blind in the right eye and a thousand kings blind in both eyes who summoned God so that they could see him before they died. All went to the grave disappointed. Then a pauper sat on the throne and asked how anyone could look at God, for it was like looking directly into the sun. The pauper asked God to turn down his splendor so that the pauper could see him. “Then---listen old man,” said Jesus, “God became a piece of bread, a cup of cool water, a warm tunic, a hut, a woman giving suck to an infant. ‘Thank you, Lord,’ whispered the pauper. ‘You humbled yourself for my sake. You became bread, water, a warm tunic, a hut, and in front of the hut, my wife and son in order that I might see you. And I did see you. I bow down and worship you beloved many-faced face!’”
I hope that this year I am better able to see what is there.
David B. Seaburn is a writer. His latest novel is “More More Time,” which is available at http://www.amazon.com/More-Time-David-B-Seaburn/dp/0991562232. He is also a retired Presbyterian minister and family psychologist.