In these days between Christmas Day and the ending of the year, I read again and again the story. I read it in Luke. I read it in dear messages from friends as I look through our stack of Christmas cards. I read it in the children’s Christmas books I read to my granddaughter. And I read it in poetry. I am glad for these quieter days, colder now so I want to stay inside. It is still Christmas.
GK Chesterton (1874–1936)
The House of Christmas
There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
When I was a little girl, I thought Christmas should always be on a Sunday. It seemed right to go to church for Christmas, to sing carols, to hear “Merry Christmas” from friends who gathered there. For the last 25 years, we have loved being in a church that celebrates Advent and also always has a Christmas eve communion and candle service. Any day of the week Christmas comes, the gift of Christ’s coming burns in my heart beyond all the gathering and cooking and gifting. This year the calendar said Christmas Eve on Sunday, timing I loved. Today is the 26th. It is quiet. I see some Christmas trees already out for trash and some are already removing lights and decorations.
I will keep Christmas. Decorations and lights will stay for awhile, but I will keep Christmas. The spark that is lit with the candles and carols must light something within me that stays. It will never be something I can clear away and put in a box. So like Mary, I treasure the gift and mystery of Christ’s coming – my Christmas ponders.
But Mary treasured up all these words and pondered them in her heart” Luke 2:19
A few days ago, a rare (for this area) snowfall briefly covered our homes, our gardens, and our church. Young and old rushed to the windows to watch as flakes began to drift down. Later, the rushing was to go outside, to lift faces and palms to the wonder. I often think just when I need the sense of wonder quickened, a gift like this comes to do just that. Wonder at snowfall or the tiniest dewdrop glistening on a rose petal is a nudge to be open, to remain open-eyed, to be receptive to the fullness and expectancy of Advent.
Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder.The wonder keeps us open-eyed and exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make. ~ Eugene Peterson