Christmas 2015

What if someone, perhaps your child, asked you what beauty is? You would fumble for words for how do you express something that so deeply held in the soul?  Your mind would turn to the great works of art you admired or to a song that pierced your heart or to poetry or prose that stirred your innermost being.  But you know that would fall somehow flat.  Perhaps the best you could do is to think of the face of your most beloved, maybe look back at your own child, and say that is as close as we can come to saying what beauty is.

And what if your child asked you what is wisdom is? You could recall a compendium of facts and seek out the places of our highest learning.  You could name the greatest minds who ever lived.  But you know wisdom to be more than intelligence – wisdom resonates with the soul; it is the voice of God within us.  How do you put that into words?  You might just sigh, point your child in the direction of the wisest person you know, and simply say, “Listen.”

And what if you child asked you what love is? I doubt you would speak of the chemistry of the brain or turn to a romantic film.  How do you answer a question so vital and yet so elusive?  How do you define the least definable work in the language?  Perhaps you would simply hold that child tightly and say this is all I know of what love is.

We try so hard to grasp through words what can only be known by experience. Words themselves are but a shortcut to what we truly desire and need.  It would not matter much if we could define all these things without ever experiencing them.  In short, we need mercy, the flowering of all God’s greatest gifts:  the gift that unifies even such lofty ideas as beauty, wisdom and love.  And shockingly, to that we can give a precise definition.

For imagine now the questions are not of a young child asking about the world. They are the questions of an older child, not wondering about all this, but needing to know, frightened that the best of life had escaped them.  If you were that parent, how desperately would you be to let them know that all these gifts are real and meant for your child?

And so our God looked down upon the children. God had sent words through the prophets, but the children did not understand.  God had made covenants with a people and still they rebelled.  God created and divine beauty was insinuated into every thing, and still wars were fought.  A desperate parent would still give more, would give everything possible.  And so it happened.  God gave us God.

God gave us God and Jesus Christ was born. God gave us God and we beheld God’s beautiful face.  God gave us God and we heard the very Word of God, words that set themselves apart as an irrefutable wisdom, settling into our souls and bringing light to darkness.  God gave us God and love was no longer an elusive concept or a philosophical dream; love was real and walked among us and held us and lived for us and died for us.  Love was ours and it was complete.  And it still is today.

And how did God come into this world. In a way so humble, no one could escape its meaning.  In a way so poor that no poor person would fail to know that this was their savior.  In a way so vulnerable that those haunted by the shadows of death would indeed see the light of dawn break upon them.

And this is mercy – the true definition of it – Jesus Christ. For when God wanted us to see, to know and to love, he sent his son.  A son who was not just beautiful, but beauty.  A son who was not just wise, but wisdom.  A son who was not just loving, but love.  Yes, our wars are still with us and the blight of desperate poverty and frightening aloneness continues.  But there is an answer to all of our questions:  a salve to all our wounds, a light to relieve our darkness, a hope for all the world.  It is mercy.  It is Jesus Christ born today.