“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:14
“It was thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, but it is a visit that for all our madness and cynicism and indifference and despair we have never quite forgotten. The oxen in their stalls. The smell of hay. The shepherds standing around. That child and that place are somehow the closest of all close encounters, the one we are closest to, the one that brings us closest to something that cannot be told in any other way. This story that faith tells in the fairytale language of faith is not just that God is, which God knows is a lot to swallow in itself much of the time, but that God comes. Comes here. ‘In great humility.’ There is nothing much humbler than being born: naked, totally helpless, not much bigger than a loaf of bread. But with righteousness and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. And to us came. Is it true – not just the way fairytales are true but as the truest of truths? Almighty God, are you true?
“When you are standing up to your neck in darkness, how do you say yes to that question? You say yes, I suppose, the only way faith can ever say it if it is honest with itself. You say yes with your fingers crossed. You say it with your heart in your mouth. Maybe that way we can say yes. He visited us. The world has never been quite the same since.” (Frederick Buechner, The Clown in the Belfry)
I must admit that even after being taught this story since infancy and hearing its re-telling thousands of times, I still sometimes think it must be a fairytale. No wonder there are so many cynics, skeptics, non-believers, scoffers, and persecutors. I stand with them at times; for who in his or her right mind could believe such a thing, that God (if there is one) visited earth, born as an infant like the rest of us, and lived alongside us experiencing everything we humans experience. It’s outrageous! Except for this one undeniable historical fact that even the cynics, skeptics, and non-believers cannot dispute. When “The Word become flesh and made his dwelling among us,” the undeniable fact is, as Buechner points out, “the world has never been quite the same since.” Fairytales don’t have that kind of impact, only the truest of truths.
As is my custom, this issue number 50 will be the final one for 2023. May you have a joyful and blessed Christmas season! Abundant Living will return in January.