Among John Shea’s poetry, one finds a little piece entitled: Sharon’s Christmas Prayer. It reads:
She was five
sure of the facts
and recited them
with slow solemnity
convinced every word
they were so poor
they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
and they went a long way from home
without getting lost. The lady rode
a donkey, the man walked, and the baby
was inside the lady.
They had to stay in a stable
with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)
but the Three Rich Men found them
because a star lited the roof.
Shepherds came and you could
pet the sheep but not feed them.
Then the baby was borned.
And do you know who he was?
Her quarter eyes inflated
to silver dollars.
The baby was God.
The Christmas story as told by a child: Joseph and Mary journeying on a donkey, no room at the inn, birth in a stable, the star and the shepherds and the wise men and, of course, the baby: God. For us adults, it is all too easy to miss how incredible that story is: the baby was God. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. What a wild and unbelievable statement! The infinite heart, centre, creator, and sustainer of the universe is born as a baby and lives as a human person on this earth and gives us God’s power.
We’ve domesticated the incarnation; the real Christmas story staggers the mind and befuddles the imagination. How’s this for a Christmas story to rival Sharon’s:
We begin by setting up the proper ambience: Imagine the universe … Light travels at 186,000 miles a second. Hence light travelling to the earth from the body nearest to us, the moon, already takes more than a second to get here. From the sun it takes more than 8 minutes to reach earth. But the sun and the moon are close to us. Their distance from us enormous but in terms of the universe as a whole, it is minuscule. If one looks up at the stars at night, of those stars visible to the naked eye, the ones nearest to us are so far away that light travelling from them at 186,000 miles per second takes more than 4 years to reach us. Those which are farthest away, but still visible to the naked eye, are so distant that light travelling from them at 186,000 miles per second takes 800,000 years to get here. That befuddles the mind.
More incredible still: Science today, using X-ray telescopes, has sighted planets whose light has not yet reached earth. These stars are so distant that their light will take 6 trillion light years to get here. That is totally beyond imagination and that is just the universe we have already seen. There may be billions of galaxies and universes of which we are not yet even aware.
So what does Christmas mean? Given that there are perhaps billions of galaxies with trillions of light years separating them, consider that at the centre of all of this there is one heart, one creator, one sustainer, one God who has made all of this and who right now watches over it all so that every individual person and event is passionately cared about, so that “no hair falls from a human head nor sparrow from the sky” without this God knowing and deeply caring. And most incredulous of all … this heart, this God, this centre of everything, actually was carried for nine months in the womb of a peasant woman in Palestine and was born into our world as a baby and then lived here, taught us, and gave us, his believers, all the power he, himself, had as God. What a wild belief! Speak about winning the lottery! If we believe this, and that is the Christmas message, we should be singing carols and passing drinks around.
After John Shea has let the five-year-old Sharon tell the Christmas story, he notes her reaction and supplies us with a one line commentary that expresses the only appropriate way to treat the news of Christmas:
And she jumped in the air,
whirled round, dove into the sofa,
and buried her head under a cushion
which is the only proper response
to the Good News of the Incarnation.
The Perfect Christmas Wish
The child will begin to smile back; she has awakened
Love in its heart, and in awakening Love in its heart,
she awakes also recognition … In the same way, God
Awakes himself before us as love. Love radiates from
God and instills the light of love in our hearts (Hans Urs Von Balthasar)
Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ child, an infant at whom we must smile for a long time to awaken into love.
And where is this Christ child at whom we must smile?
If Mary became pregnant by the Holy Spirit, the spirit of charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, longsuffering, fidelity, mildness, and chastity, then her child’s face must radiate these features.
We celebrate Christmas when we smile at these, especially where we see them vulnerable, in need of a mother to nurse, nurture, guide, and coax them into adulthood.
Our Christmas gift to those we love can only be a smile …for in them we have seen the charitable, joyful, peaceful, patient, good, longsuffering, faithful, mild, and chaste face of a very vulnerable Christ.
Hopefully they will return the gift – by smiling back!