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Christmas is Grace

Well, I’m up to my ears in Christmas Eve and Sunday sermon preparation this week, and after that we’re off to Alberta to visit family until early January so the posting might be a little sparse around here for a while.  In the meantime, I thought I would share another memorable quote from Frederick Buechner.  This comes from Whistling in the Dark:

Christmas itself is by grace.  It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise.  It could never have happened otherwise.  Perhaps it is the very wildness and strangeness of the grace that has led us to try to tame it.  We have tried to make it habitable.  We have roofed it and furnished it.  We have reduced it to an occasion we feel at home with, at best a touching and beautiful occasion, at worst a trite and cloying one.  But if the Christmas event in itself is indeed—as a matter of cold, hard fact—all its cracked up to be, then eve at best our efforts are misleading.

The Word became flesh.  Ultimate Mystery born with a skull you could crush one-handed.  Incarnation.  It is not tame.  It is not beautiful.  It is uninhabitable terror.  It is unthinkable darkness riven with unbearable light.  Agonized laboring led to it, vast upheavals of intergalactic space, time split apart, a wrenching and tearing of the very sinews of reality itself.  You can only cover your eyes and shudder before it, before this: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God… who for us and for our salvation,” as the Nicene Creed puts it, “came down from heaven.”

Came down.  Only then do we dare uncover our eyes and see what we can see.  It is the Resurrection and the Life she holds in her arms.  It is the bitterness of death he takes at her breast.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ken #

    I think Buechner is striving to create from effusive prose an epiphany. His prose reminds me of the light in Thomas Kinkade’s art. Salvation by aesthetics.

    Yes, “Christmas itself is by grace.” In our day, we recognize grace, if we see it at all, by means of aesthetics.

    December 22, 2009
  2. Paul Johnston #

    I can’t dismiss what Mr. Beuchner says. I’m sure it speaks truth. It’s not how I see the story though, it reads like a spiritual “big bang”. It is too vast and esoteric. I like the smallness and intimicy of the Nativity.

    Somehow in the grand landscape that is described by Mr. Beuchner I imagine there to be license for the worst, most depraved forms of being. As if a personal morality, seeking the good, was irrelavent, unneccessary, invisible, almost pathetic.

    Seeing humanity as one little family struggling against the poverty of existence, gives me hope in the good. I choose to believe that whatever worldviews we embrace to justify our inhumanity stop making sense to us, stop giving us comfort, when we see them bring great harm to defenceless people; to overburdened mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, innocent children.

    I may well be misunderstanding the broader implications of Mr. Beuchner’s work, but I think it is precisely because we do “feel at home” with the struggles of others, embodied in the Nativity, that there is hope for our future. Let us continue to do so.

    Really “touching” a beautiful occasion, is worth the effort.

    December 23, 2009

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