I think the Hobbits were on to something. Tea and scones, porridge and eggs, toast and sausages are well worth considering a second time, especially on a long and cold walk near Mordor when the first breakfast consists of rabbit.
The Incarnation, the Atonement and the Second Coming are well worth considering a second time, especially on a long and cold walk through a secular land. “The Incarnation is a thing too wonderful” for us, and I think we need all the help we can get, to really get it.
So let’s have second Christmas! It starts tonight, courtesy of the Orthodox Christians.
I think the Orthodox Christians are on to something when it comes to encounters with the infinite, and it’s called tradition. Have you ever noticed, when you bump up against spiritual things, that you wonder what on earth to do?
Even if you bumped up against, say, Queen Elizabeth, wouldn’t you find yourself at a loss if you did not know that you are supposed to courtsey (or bow) just so?
What if you met an angel? Most every person in the Bible who met an angel was so overwhelmed that he fell on his face. The most common angelic greeting is “Fear not!”
What if you met God? Moses took his shoes off. Isaiah clapped his hands to his mouth. Paul went blind. The twenty-four elders see God every day, and they continually cast down their crowns and cry, “Holy, holy, holy.”
It’s no wonder that God uses physical actions and objects as connecting links to communicate with us. “Come here to this Temple,” He says. “Visit this city. Walk in this Land. Rest on this day. Anoint the sick with this oil. Wash away your sins in this water. Eat this bread. Touch the hem of this robe. See this blood. Feel this pierced hand.”
Man-made traditions, of course, will sometimes short-circuit our connection with God: everybody knows about the Pharisees. But sometimes traditions can act like spiritual training wheels. Still, everybody looks forward to the day when we won’t need training wheels anymore…when we won’t see through a glass darkly…when we will turn and become as little children.
Do you suppose that as toddlers Queen Elizabeth’s children felt the need of courtseying and bowing? I think they ran straight into her arms.
And so will we with our Heavenly Father, when we know Him as He truly is.
Meanwhile, “the Incarnation is a thing too wonderful,” so let’s spend this Sabbath…this second Christmas…looking up into His face.
And, you know, there’s January eighteenth, thanks to the Armenian Christians.
Third Christmas, anyone?
“In the beginning was the Word…in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not…but I know that my Redeemer liveth, and at last He will stand up upon the earth…whom I, even I shall see, on my side, and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.”