Would that it were, for all of us, in some way. Would that peace, good will to all would resound on earth as it did in heaven, once upon a time, (or so we were told.) Would that those heavens could be filled with a joyous multitude rejoicing that God With Us was born on Earth and in our hearts, rising in patience and forgiveness and understanding that would flow from heart to heart.
Oh, the human heart. Tillich said once (and I paraphrase slightly) that sin is the separation of human from human, human from self, and human from the Ground of Being. When we live alone in our hearts, separated from our fellows, what can follow but sin and sorrow?
And does it not seem that this is now the case here on Earth?
The world is filled with blank-eyed, bloody-mouthed cruelty. Young and old are seduced into selfishness and we live apart from each other, either scrabbling for day to day survival, or suffocating in surfeit.
What a pitiful thing we are. What an evil, what a waste upon the face of the cosmos, the chorus shrills again and again.
Could anyone blame me - blame us - for recoiling from ourselves in disgust, for giving up?
But somehow, we don't. Somehow we keep going.
We as individuals sometimes fall, but more times we get up and stagger on. We as a world lurch and spin and teeter on the edge of annihilation of spirit and place. And we are teetering every day, every second - and yet we have somehow, for now, refused our own annihilation.
I think - general agnostic and sometime atheist and defrocked Northern Baptist that I am - that whatever there is in the universe that yearns towards light and warmth and good still burns in some corner of our hearts. The filth of all we do ill may nearly extinguish it. And it alone, that tiny burning spark, is not enough by itself to keep us warm, or keep us from dying inside.
But it is there, and it stubbornly refuses to be completely doused. With patience, love and hard, hard, heart-breaking work, it may yet burst into flame again.
Here at the turning of the year, I choose to believe, for however short a time, in the birth of a child who is the sign of ultimate love. I choose, who does not even know if one exists, to welcome God With Us. I choose to welcome the sun from darkness, and follow stars into light, and reject - oh, silly human that I am - all that is petty, if only for one blessed silent, holy night.
Once upon a time I wrote about how much I love the movie It's A Wonderful Life, (and this is connected, believe me.) I wrote my own coda to the story. And each year on Christmas Eve, even in years where confusion and sadness are inescapable, as they are this year, I remember the love that shone through that movie, and recall the silent and holy nights of my youth, and decide to believe, for a little while longer, in the completely irrational and unsupportable victory of light against the darkness.
Blessings to all of you who I know, and also to those who I don't know. Blessings to you in whatever form you will take them. Star of Bethlehem. Welcoming of the Yule. Turning from cold to warmth, from death to life, in whatever fashion it seems best to you. I hope to have the grace to carry you all in my heart for the coming year.
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