Nothing’s as it should be in my world today. It’s raining when it should be snowing. The house is quiet and the day is dark; there should be laughter and light. It’s almost Christmas, after all!
Everything’s wrong. Yet, somehow it’s right.
The darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere comes days before Christians (and even those who don’t believe) pause to celebrate the human birth of the One who sheds light on everything.
We celebrate, but the truth is, maybe we’ve got it all wrong.
What if second century historians were right and Jesus wasn’t born in mid-winter, in a stable? What if, as their writings show, Christ’s birth came in early spring and it would be months, maybe years before shepherds and magi found their way to the King of the Jews?
What if, by stringing lights and decorations on evergreen, we’re following in the footsteps of a long line of Egyptian and Roman pagans who worshipped trees in celebration of prosperity and eternal life? Or we’re carrying on the European tradition of marking the winter solstice with rituals designed to keep away evil spirits and to show hope for the coming Spring?
What if Christian reformist Martin Luther had never taken that Christmas Eve walk 500 years ago and been struck by the beauty of snow sparkling on evergreen in the moonlight — so much so that he cut one down and set it up in his home to share the beauty with his children?
While I wait in this darkest of days for the celebration of Light, there is a “rightness” in the timing and the tradition of Christmas. Not in all the shopping or in the banning of live Nativities or the political correctness of “Happy Holidays”, but in the reality that as Americans living in a nation founded on Biblical principals, we begin the long journey toward Spring and the Resurrection by settling into the legend of a quiet birth on a shepherd’s hill following the longest night of the year.
Two thousand years of waiting to decode the mystery of Christ’s birth bring us to the simple truth that we need this tradition, this story as much as ever. Because, what if we got it right?
The House of Christmas
By G.K. Chesterton
There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.
For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.
A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.