Gazelles and stags bounding across hills. Flowers blooming. Spring erupting. Life exploding. [BTW/ Isn’t it interesting that the Church offers an alternative reading in case someone thinks this sensuous poetry might be too much for us? Oh well, the Church has never liked poets an dprophets!]
Then, I peer out across the valley and the mountains from my living room. Nothing is bounding. It is cold. Clouds blocked the lunar eclipse. A dull rainy haze obscures Brasstown Bald. Anotehr rainy winter day is upon us.
Now I understand why we celebrate Christmas at this time of the year when days are short and nights are long. Darkness overcomes the light. In Alaska it is almost 24 hours of darkness.
The Romans worshipped the Sun gods at this time of year—the inevitable human hope for something more desirable. The Christians looked around and decided to throw some holy water on the pagan festivities. Voila! Christmas—Christ the Son, the Light of the World comes to us leaping and bounding across the dark-shrouded mountains.
God comes to dwell among us in human form so that we might in turn become divine. This is light, hope, that it is where we stand that makes a difference. God stands with us so that we might stand with God. Greg Boyle, the Jesuit who has worked so successfully with gangs in LA, tells us that it is where we stand that matters.
Jesus fully embraced our humanity. All too often we give a nod toward the humanness of Jesus and turn right around and focus on his divinity. Jesus experienced all—misunderstanding, rejection, abandonment by close friends—that we experience except sin. He grew in wisdom, age, and grace as his relationship to Abba God developed.
When Jesus was the cross-bound victim of Roman oppression he uttered two comments. The first was, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” In his suffering and agony he felt totally abandoned by Abba God.
Sometimes we too feel abandoned by God as situations deal us an unexpected blow. Take the case of Mary. The Message translation says the angel told Mary that God had a surprise for her. Something unexpected is going to happen to her. Before we wax eloquent about Mary becoming the mother of God, let us remember that the angel is telling Mary that she is going to become pregnant out of wedlock. That is a deadly surprise because she was subject to being stoned to death under Mosaic Law. No wonder he angel had to assuage Mary’s fear. The fact is that Mary got it and let go. “I understand. Let it be done unto me according to your word.” When we get surprises, when the unexpected happens to us—sickness, loss of job, economic calamity—can we get it and let the outcome rest in God’s hands? Our healing from whatever depends on letting go and trusting in God. Like Mary, Jesus understood and said, “Abba God, into your hands I commend my spirit.” The death-final act of letting go, of turning his life over to Abba God. The death agony is the agony of letting go.
Christmas is about life and hope. Christmas is about death and hope. When all around us is dying and darkness we get a glimpse of light and hope. Life is not about moi—the false self. Life is about God. Life is about others. Life is about love and loving. Life is about standing in the love of God and letting go.
In our coldest, darkest moments in the winters of our life, Abba God is bounding like a gazelle to come to us. God is lovingly calling us forth from the dark caves of wintry existence into the Light of Life.
My favorite visualization—my safe place for healing and wholeness—is a valley surrounded by high mountains. In the valley I am sitting on a big rock and Jesus is seated beside me. His arm is around my shoulders. The valley floor is ablaze. It is covered with varieties of colorful flowers. This is the valley where Jesus is present to me and I can rest in his love. Jesus has bounded across the mountains and come to my valley. From my wintry cave of hurt Jesus has called me forth. I blossom forth in the valley of light and hope.
Jesus, the tremendous lover, is calling:
Get up, my dear friend, fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Look around you: Winter is over; the winter rains are over, gone!
Spring flowers are in blossom all over.
The whole world’s a choir—and singing!
Spring warblers are filling the forest with sweet arpeggios.
Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed, and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms.
Oh, get up, dear friend, my fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Come, my shy and modest dove— leave your seclusion, come out in the open. (Song of Solomon, 2:10-14)