Christmas—the birth of God as human being. What a concept!
For my kids’ generation, I have to translate it in terms of an alien coming to Earth, revealing Himself as the seed of human origin. We are more likely to believe in aliens than angels these days. But, be that as it may, the human experience, despite 5000 years of conversations with God and 2000+ Christmases, our life-on-earth journey remains much the same. We are born, we live, and we die.
As I consider this unlikely year 2020, amid all the changes and challenges of our fast-paced technological developments, social and political upheavals, a contracting world amid an expanding universe, pandemics, increasing information, and diminishing trust, I have chosen to focus on what really matters to me.
Family, home, community, my critters, and the little piece of Earth under my care, given by God, offer my life purpose and meaning. Joy even. The happiness of service, becoming a part of more than my petty self, my particular needs, my thin view.
Each day, I attempt to manage my daily-do, taking care of those within my family and community sphere. But the larger world matters, too. In that respect, I have been blessed to interact with three generous stewards of God’s life and love. I am sure there are many others as well.
The mystery of Christmas, for me, is not so much that God became human and offers us Eternal life with Him in Heaven—He being God, that perfection is reasonable, even expected—but that despite our faults and failings, our petty selfishness, we humans can and do respond with generous spirits, in imitation of the God who made us.
To join with fellow human beings who so love the world that we offer our lives, in big and small matters, in monetary offerings, time and talent, heartfelt conversations, prayer, solace, nobility of spirit, courage, anonymous kind acts, speaks to a humanity that can rise and grow beyond our worst tendencies, our weakest links, our nefarious faults.
This Christmas season, I choose not to focus on our many problems or the murky swirl of an uncertain future, but rather, I lift my gaze to God in gratitude for His presence among us and for my fellow human beings who live in generous, noble love. Nowhere do you shine so bright as in these dark days. May your light continue to shine in the coming months and years, and may the Good God who created you for Eternal life, offer you the strength and hope to persevere, come what may.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16
In Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, Chapter Three, entitled: The Night Shadows, he wrote, “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is preferable to this.”
Dickens struck upon an integral characteristic of humanity, that every beating heart is the greatest quandary to its companions. The uniqueness of each human person far exceeds the design of a thumbprint. The human person (rational animal or not) is a mystery that would take, I think, an eternity to unravel.
Dickens’ words strike a deep chord in me. The fact that we can see only through our own eyes is a somewhat mind-boggling consideration. The image of a city at night, filled with tens of thousands of unique hearts, paints a spectacular image. It makes me think of the human heart as a diamond, or crystal, with a million facets. We show particular faces to particular people. But when all is said and done, even our best friend will, at times, still marvel at the mystery of who we are.
I’m sitting outside on the back porch, while Merry, the cat—a poor injured stray we saved—is sitting at my feet doing what cats do…resting and checking out the world whenever the mood hits. The pine trees sway in a gentle breeze while white, fluffy clouds sail serenely overhead. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, so everything is green and gorgeous. A red rose in a nearby pot practically glows against the backdrop of pine trees. Various summer flowers bloom in their summertime brilliance. Flies and bees and a little jumping spider have also made an appearance. The chicks, still in the brooder house waiting for their outdoor pen are running about, trying their wings as they learn that the ground cannot hold them bound.
The awesome beauty of this summer day, the chirping multitude: sparrows, red-wing blackbirds, robins, cardinals, and cooing doves, the laughter of young children at play, the haunting melody played by one of the girls at the piano, rustling waves of breezes cascading over the fields of corn and beans all work together, creating a pallet of beauty that any artist would envy.
When I considered what to write on my blog today, no words would come. Yet as I sit here surrounded by simple summer, I find I do not need words—just eyes and ears and a heart willing to believe that this is real.
When the winter winds blow, the sky laden with grey clouds and the birds silenced in their nests, I will remember this day. The yellow buttercups, the red rose, the buzzing bees will live in my heart and imagination. Even in my dreams, I will remember this day, and no matter the clouds or the cold and the barren waste of winter, summer will yet live.
Recently, I read that there have been several cases where surrogate mothers discovered that they were carrying babies with downs syndrome, and they were told to abort their babies by the biological parents, but they refused and decided to keep the babies.
I have also read, that Richard Dawkins believes that it is immoral to allow a “Downs Syndrome baby” to come to term. Notice, for him, the syndrome comes first, not the humanity of the baby. For him, abortion is the only moral option. I have to wonder at this current attitude in face of the barbaric cruelty of ISIS. After all, they believe that killing infidels is the only moral option. Sometimes, those infidels are little children.
The other day, as I was walking with my son in the late evening, mourning over the recent gruesome tragedies inflicted by ISIS, my son asked me how come it was gruesome for ISIS to behead men, women, and children, but there was little moral outrage when babies in the womb were dismembered and beheaded. Abortion is every bit as violent as ISIS, but it is funded by US tax dollars. Millions of babies have been brutally murdered through abortion in the last thirty years. It is so horrifically common it seems to slip by people’s conscious thought. Every day in the US, we basically behead innocent babies.
This leads me back to the eugenics movement to rid the world of people with Downs Syndrome. I find it interesting that Christians and Downs Syndrome children are especially targeted for extermination. Why is that? The people I have known with Downs Syndrome, and the parents who care for them, tend to be happy people. In fact, one mother I know who recently lost her adult daughter with downs syndrome to cancer told me that her daughter was the best gift she ever had. Her daughter taught her to love in a way she had never experienced before.
Clearly, people with Downs Syndrome are still people. Just as Christians are still people, even though they may not believe what ISIS believes. Yet in both cases, there are those who would convince the world that we all would be better off without them. Their kind. Their influence. What is the danger exactly? Are they hurting anyone? Are they aggressively trying to take over the world?
No, they just ask something of us that perhaps we do not want to give. People with Downs Syndrome ask for an unconditional love, which they more often than not, fully return. Christians ask for a sacrificial love, which, when lived as Christ lived, is also fully returned.
So I have to ask myself – what are we saving the world from? Love? Perhaps we need to wonder less if we are saving the world, but rather, are we making a world worth saving.
When I read a good book, I feel like I get the value, meaning, purpose, and passion of life’s struggle better than when I am just doing the ordinary duties of the day. The kids and I are currently reading Anne Of Green Gables, a story where the author draws out the fantastic elements of the ordinary. Her descriptions of a sunrise and sunset allow me to see the grandeur of the moment. I see through her eyes more powerfully than my own. When reading a What if… story like Flowers forAlgernon, I understand the value of a human soul a little better. Strange?
Perhaps it is because writers try to see what is lost in the glare of “ordinary.” They try to recover what we forget to notice. We all have the potential of a good writer, if not to put things down on paper, at least to look again and see what is before us with new and vivid appreciation.
Well trained actors do much the same. They take real life, act it out, play it up, and help us to see what is right in front of us. Authentic writers and actors can help the blind see and the deaf hear. Life is meant to be lived passionately, but it takes skill and determination to do that. Occasionally, we can be pulled from the ordinary into the extraordinary and reminded that there is more to us than we see with our mortal eyes.
Too often I find that I am waiting for this or that to happen, and then I’ll give myself permission to be happy and know true contentment. Time passes and I get things on my to-do list finished just in time to fill up another list. It is like the laundry, I have finally accepted the fact that the laundry is never really done—it’s just a cycle that goes around and around and around.
But life is more than laundry or jobs or things that must be dealt with. If that is all God wanted from us then He would have done better to make us robots. But he didn’t. He risked our immortal souls by giving us free wills, which allows us to know Him intimately or reject Him utterly. God is willing to live with us and die for us. That truth makes my particular to-do list rather insignificant by comparison.
Don’t get me wrong. I love to achieve results: keep the house clean, teach the kids, organize and plan with the best of moms, but I know that the temptation to work without reference to the God who made me is very great. I end up thinking that disasters like a spoiled dinner, a ruined shirt, or a torn book make the world less good. Or when I set goals that are not achieved as quickly as I would like, the sun doesn’t seem to shine so brightly.
Yet God exists even when real disasters strike, and I can always love Him. In that acceptance, I feel a joy of contentment because my worth is not based on a thing or a result but on the desire of my God who made me on purpose for some definite good.
So, I once again sally forth to take a walk, listen to the birds, feel the gentle breeze, and thank Him, knowing He is mine as I am His. Life—with all its arduous details and never-ending to-do lists—is good.