Wednesday, December 24, 2008


We need hardly rehash opinions about Bing Crosby. None of us are what we seem to be. As for David Bowie, well, one of his pupils is permanently dilated, a side effect of drug abuse. One way or the other, there's so much abuse. Didn't know he had a son, though. Seems ... incongruous. Not everyone should have sons. I had a conversation touching on that very idea, just tonight. Synchronicity, almost. I've said it here before, the idea that our children are not our own -- rather they're entrusted into our care by God. Who will inquire of us, one day, how faithfully we attended to our duty in this matter.

Why get all maudlin about this, again? Well? What else is Christmas, but a story of fatherhood. The infant Jesus is hardly important at all. All the relevant decisions about his housing would have been attended to long before -- indeed, before the foundation of the world. His various trips, to Bethlehem in the womb, down to Egypt, out to the wilderness, up to the Cross -- they were all part of an itinerary. As with all things, as with life itself, it's not the map but the trip, not the route but the road; it's being where we are when we're there. Hard lesson. I don't know it. Jesus did. Of course he did. Otherwise his whole life would have been spent brooding about the eternity of agony awaiting him on Golgotha. Who could live like that? No one. Not even God.

God the father, God the son -- terminologies can be so confusing. There's the temptation to think we call God a father because that's a symbol we understand, that fits him. But that's backwards. He really is a father, and the symbolism applies to us, who only seem to be fathers. We create nothing, and our guidance is a mere movement of shadows. We only take the place of a father. That has to be enough. If we cherish the role, honor it, then it is.

It's hard to understand. A loving father, whose character is bound by a need for justice and for mercy, liberated by grace, but at a high, a so-high price -- a loving father who sends his son not merely to death, but to eternal and infinite agony. Jesus is suffering still, you know, on the Cross. That's part of what being eternal means -- every moment is always present. There's a way you can, right now, add to his suffering. Just choose to sin. He'll feel it. And this is what God sent him to. How can we understand that kind of love, perplexing and contradictory.

I did let my son go off to war. What was I hoping? -- that some other father's son would die, and not my own? Sons die. That's what our religion is about. My son lived, lives, for now. Hopefully I will die first, after a long and blessed life. Then, in his turn, he will pass, warm in the embrace of his loved ones -- and so return to me, and I to him. And so on through all the generations of humanity that remain, if any.

None of us knows to what specific purpose we ourselves, or our children, are born. Jesus knew. A terrible purpose, and wonderful. Our songs tell us that the child slept in heavenly peace. He closed his eyes to do so. He would also have closed his mind, his spirit, to the knowledge of the full purpose of his life. Children sometimes have to do that, ignore terrible truths in their world, in their families. God had to do it too, apparently.

Christmas? A silly time. I've said so before, among other points. But what is silly is the mythology of course, and the sentimentality, and the self-indulgence, and the commercialism it goes without saying. What is silly is the adoration of the child. Everyone has to be born. It's how a life is lived afterward that defines it. Jesus didn't have a choice. He had to succeed, because of his nature. He was never tempted, for all that he was tested. God has no choice but to be true to his nature. Satan never did understand that. The wonder of Jesus, then, is not that he lived, or even how he lived. It's how, and why, he died. Christmas is the first station of the Cross.



nanc said...

jack - i hope you find some joy this next year.

Jack H said...

Thank you. And may grace overtake you as the wind fills a sail.