A Cautious Man
December 10, 2007
Nothing But A Child
Once upon a time
In a far off land
Wise men saw a sign
And set out aross the sand
Songs of praise to sing,
They travelled day and night
Precious gifts to bring,
Guided by the light

They chased a brand new star,
Ever towards the west
Across the mountains far
But when it came to rest
They scarce believed their eyes,
They'd come so many miles
And the miracle they prized
Was nothing but a child

- Steve Earle, Nothing But a Child
It's a little early for Christmas posts, perhaps, but since it's the middle of Advent, maybe not too early. As I've mentioned here before, my favorite Christmas special is, and has for years been, "A Charlie Brown Christmas". One of the reasons is that scene which takes place, after Charlie Brown has been barraged by Christmas commercialization, and has been made fun of for bringing a forlorn little (real) Christmas tree for the Christmas "pageant" the kids are putting on. He can't take it any more, and simply shouts: "Doesn't anybody know what Christmas is all about?" Linus calmly replies, "I know what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." Then he walks to the center of the stage, and recites a description of (what some consider) an improbable event from the second chapter of Luke:
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
And today, via The Ironic Catholic, from over in my reading list, comes a link to a Garrison Keillor essay about discussing the Nativity story with some teenagers. It takes the same story, and teases out some new way to look at it -

We sat in a sort of triangle, two couches at a right angle, a line of chairs, a window looking out at the snow on Amsterdam Avenue, and talked about the rather improbable notion that God sent Himself to Earth in human form, impregnating a virgin who, along with her confused fiancé, journeyed to Bethlehem where no rooms were available at the inn (it was the holidays, after all), and so God was born in a stable, wrapped in cloths and laid in a feed trough and worshipped by shepherds summoned by angels and by Eastern dignitaries who had followed a star.

This magical story is a cornerstone of the Christian faith and I am sorry if it's a big hurdle for the skeptical young. It is to the Church what his Kryptonian heritage was to Clark Kent -- it enables us to stop speeding locomotives and leap tall buildings at a single bound, and also to love our neighbors as ourselves. Without the Nativity, we become a sort of lecture series and coffee club, with not very good coffee and sort of aimless lectures.

On Christmas Eve, the snow on the ground, the stars in the sky, the spruce tree glittering with beloved ornaments, we stand in the dimness and sing about the silent holy night and tears come to our eyes and the vast invisible forces of Christmas stir in the world. Skeptics, stand back. Hush. Hark. There is much in this world that doubt cannot explain.

However you view the meaning of the event as described, in song, or story, or essay, I hope you enjoy the season.

Nothing but a child
Could wash these tears away
Or guide a weary world
Into the light of day

And nothing but a child
Could help erase these miles
So once again we all
Can be children for awhile



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