Published: Dec 22, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Dec 22, 2012 03:54 PM
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware, wrote Martin Buber.
His insight would include the journey of Christmas Eves travelers. Joseph did not begin their journey with a stable as the destination. Mary never suspected shepherds would be the first to celebrate her childs birth or that foreigners would throw her a baby shower. And we still marvel that God traveled out of heaven with flesh as the destination.
At Christmas we celebrate that God chose to journey in flesh. In so doing, God blesses flesh and sanctifies this essential element of being human that opens each of us to possibility of both suffering and transformation.
Flesh is the way to grace and glory. Yet flesh also travels the path of suffering, pain and death. All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.
The promise and affirmation of Christmas is that God has chosen to journey with us in flesh, the pivot point of our darkest fears and the source of our deepest hope. It is no wonder the angels sing. Emmanuel, God with us. Christmas has always been a shout in the dark, Emmanuel, God with us.
Vaclav Havel who died this time last year, had been imprisoned for his protests under the communist regime of Czechoslovakia before the democratic revolution in 1989 that raised him up to the Presidency of the country, once told a interviewer, Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.
For opening his country to a hope that came from beyond, Czech citizens lined the road as his coffin processed towards the church shaking keys symbolizing the doors his life of hope opened. Our hope is that beyond the dark horizon of what is experienced immediately, comes a shout in the dark, Emmanuel, God with us.
On Christmas Eve children hop around in expectation, barely able to sleep. The words hop and hope have the same root. To hop or to hope is to defy gravity, to defy all the laws of physics, nature and blood that keep us in place, changeless.
That God has chosen to journey in flesh causes us to leap about in expectation that the world can be different and decent. Beyond the horizon comes the shout that we do not have to resign ourselves to doing nothing about carbon, about injustice and violence, about sickness and all that narrows your horizon and keeps you in the dark, changeless.
This journey we celebrate at Christmas has always been a journey into darkness. A couple compelled by an occupying power to travel at a most importune time, homeless, without extended family, and without access to health care as the mother gave birth surrounded by stable muck. No sooner is their child born than violence forces them to become political refugees. This is to say nothing of being pregnant without benefit of marriage and a young father prepared to abandon a young mother. While we think of shepherds with nostalgia, they were societys untouchables. Even their foreign visitors had to leave by another road for fear of Herod. This couple is the very definition of hopeless, theirs is the journey into the heart of darkness.
For the travelers it is a journey into darkness unaware that the secret destination is one of light and hope. You and I also journey in flesh. And as such we journey into the darkness of our most intense fears and flirt with the loss of hope. On Christmas Eve hear the shout in the dark that can orient the heart, orient the spirit, Emmanuel, God with us. It is a babys cry. And signals from beyond the horizon to hop about in expectation, for you are not bound by the weight of the past, the enormity of the challenge or the gravity of death. Devastation can give way to transformation. At Christmas we celebrate this birth, this shout in the dark; not because it acknowledges the darkness that we already know to exist, but because it promises darkness can be overcome. A light shines. A baby cries.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. Emmanuel. God with us. Thanks be to God.