|The Nativity, by the hand of Duccio, c. 1255-1319|
Once in royal David's city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.
-- Cecil Frances Alexander
Christians do a great deal of remembering—but we do so in a special way. Most people remember in order to bring something from the past into the present. What they are doing can be enjoyable, providing solace, or it can be painful, dredging up sorrows. But in any event what they are doing is essentially the same: something that is locked in the past is being temporarily brought to mind, as if it is really in the here-and-now.
When Christians remember, we are doing something quite a bit different—and much more powerful. When a follower of Christ remembers the things of God, she or he is actually entering into the eternal “now” of the Divine, for whom all times and seasons are the living present, the eternal “here” of the God who is in all places, all dimensions.
When we celebrate Christ’s birth in Bethlehem through scripture, poem, and song, we are not looking in a kind of scrapbook of remote events. We are participating in the actual events themselves. For us, Christ is always being given, always entering into our lives, our world, our need. For the Christian, time is not tragic (separating things); it is hopeful, measured out day by day until there are no more days: culminating in one great unity of Creation with its God. In Advent and Christmas, we remember both the past and, in an amazing way, the future—and find them present through all our days in the eternal Now of God.
Come, let us adore Him in the mystery of His love this Christmas—ancient and yet ever new.
A Blessed Christmastide to all!