There’s nothing romantic about the Christmas story. If anything, it offers a slice of a brutal world in which a child is born on the street, so to speak, with next to nothing in the way of rights and security, and not even a home.
He whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas said, even as a grown man, “I have nothing. I am nowhere at home. Even at night, I have no place to rest or lay my head”.…But now this man from Nazareth comes to us and invites us to mirror God’s image, and shows us how. He says: you too can become light, as God is light. Because what is all around you is not hell, but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith.
~Jörg Zink, from Türen zum Fest.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are…
~W.H.Auden from “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio”
As we drove down the freeway through Seattle yesterday for a Christmas gathering of far-flung family members, I couldn’t help but flinch seeing the stark reality of ramshackle shelters and tents perched in the most precarious places along the roadside. This has been a week of freezing rain and ice, wind and snow for most of our country; here are people trying to survive in the lowliest of places through the worst of conditions. Surely, if this is not hell on earth, it is close to it. A merry Christmas indeed.
Suffering is never far off from where we are, whether we are confronted with homelessness, or it finds its way into our own lives, unbidden and overwhelming. In few weeks we begin the observance of Lent to remember the sacrifice and suffering of the Man born as a homeless baby into loving arms, having come from Loving Arms to rescue the lost.
So recently filled with Christmas feasting and cheer, I’m reminded of the struggle to find home, warmth, love and nurture in a world that can be so cruel, dark and cold.
The Babe has come to quake the gates of hell – here we all are, feeling the ground shaking…
This little Babe so few days old is come to rifle Satan's fold; all hell doth at his presence quake though he himself for cold do shake; for in this weak unarmèd wise the gates of hell he will surprise. With tears he fights and wins the field, his naked breast stands for a shield; his battering shot are babish cries, his arrows looks of weeping eyes, his martial ensigns Cold and Need and feeble Flesh his warrior's steed. His camp is pitchèd in a stall, his bulwark but a broken wall; the crib his trench, haystacks his stakes; of shepherds he his muster makes; and thus, as sure his foe to wound, the angels' trump alarum sound. My soul, with Christ join thou in fight, stick to the tents that he hath pight. Within his crib is surest ward, this little Babe will be thy guard. If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly Boy.
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