December 18, 2011
Shalom, good friends,
Life-long I have loved candles, lit and unlit. However, there was a potentially dangerous moment last year when long after guests had departed and I was asleep a forgotten candle guttered out and fell into the greens on the mantle. This year as I began to prepare the house for Advent, the memory of my morning wake-up call when I discovered what had happened returned with unpleasant clarity.
After some thought, I reluctantly acknowledged my growing forgetfulness. I eventually acknowledged as well that potentially at least I could give my guardian angel a more restful Christmas if I decorated in a way that did not require Divine around-the-clock oversight to prevent the house from burning down. With half-hearted enthusiasm I embraced what I considered to be virtual candlelight, and ordered some pillar “candles” for the mantle, “candles” that were fueled not by a burning wick but by batteries. I admit I was grumpily expecting a poor second-best.
I confess. I was wrong. Virtual is beautiful, more beautiful than I could imagine. And these candles have their own reality as well as their own beauty and light. A guest when preparing to leave one evening attempted to blow one out.
Miss Annie and I sat last night for a quiet while and watched the candles "burn." Their soft flickering glow filtered through the tall ivory pillars nestled safely among the greens. Half-asleep, I thought how like God to use on-line shopping and “virtual” battery-powered candles to help me consider again the mystery of the incarnation.
Who could have thought that God’s plan to come and be with us had any potential for beauty in it at all? After all, coming into the human existence through a peasant girl’s socially-suspicious pregnancy does not meet our ideas of nice or appropriate. And think of the risk: a first birth with a young inexperienced mother attended only by animals and what was surely a somewhat shaken new husband—nothing very nice, or, from the human view-point, nothing very safe either. Better, we think, for God to have chosen the “real” thing—the birth of the King in a palace with all the comfort and care that royalty could command.
Still there was an unexpected beauty in that scene—there was music, and the brilliance of angel-voices to bring heaven’s welcome to that child and to tell earth God's good news. There were the astonished shepherds, unshaven, unbathed ordinary humans who came in faithful witness to that special birth and found with excited joy the child the angels had told them was cradled there.
The event that divided time for all eternity occurred in a humanly unimaginable, un-nice, inappropriate place. There was danger and labor. But when morning came to that most unlikely place, and rest came at last to that exhausted father and mother, there was a new-born baby—Immanuel, God with us in our human form.
Grateful with you for God’s willingness and ability to bring light and life to us in ways beyond our ability to anticipate or foresee.
Have a blessed Christmas season in which you become aware in new ways of God’s presence and love.
I will not see you next week (Christmas Day); I will, however, see you January 1. Blessings. G