This is not a column about Christopher Hitchens, although his death (or rather, his life) and the losses and doings of Steve Jobs, Kim Jong Il, and whomever it is you wish were here today are why I’m writing. But not really: I am writing to try to explain the Christian message to those the Church has confused, or wounded, and maybe even for satisfied Christians who’ve missed the point, as we all do from time to time.
And you will be vulnerable and needing the love again one day. We are mortal; our truest carol phrase is “Lo, the days are hastening on.” One day you won’t be here to do Christmas any longer – and you know this, because there is somebody you couldn’t imagine living without who won’t be there Christmas morning, or ever again. I mention this, not to frighten or manipulate. Rather, it’s just reality that we are transient beings, not here for so long – but we never feel comfortable about that. We want more, we yearn for a future, for deeper meaning.
Notice there is no judgmental attitude in this message. To consider the idea that God entered our world as a child isn’t harsh judgment on anybody. Jesus didn’t sit up in the manger and denounce others, or deliver a lecture entitled “We are right, everybody else is wrong!” Jesus is the affirmation of all people, including you and me. Jesus isn’t my trump card defeating you. The idea of God-down-here is something special we treasure, and it causes us to treasure you, or we’ve missed the point. Jesus is the truth that we are all indelibly noble, worth loving and protecting, and that we can’t help but love other people, and not merely with a toy in December but with food and shelter (which Jesus’ parents had a hard time finding!) all year round.
And so, let’s contemplate the wisdom and hope in God being not great but small, and discover that God really does want to get close, the child being the only hope for such wonderful things as goodness, hope and love.