Sunday, December 21, 2008

Et Verbum Caro Factum Est....

Sorry, gang, but the above sight can only bring one song to mind....

That sung, this space would normally belong to an eminent preacher and the "Word of the Week"... but as a stirred spirit's saying a Christmas change-up is in order, hopefully something a little different -- less a sacramentally-licit preach than an ontologically-deficient idea or two -- might be useful for at least a few of us on this Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Wonderful as they are, see, words can only bring us to a point. They can inform, inspire, expand the mind's eye and bring it to a greater clarity. But the lesson and gift of Christmas is primarily that, for all their great intentions, words will always leave something to be desired, never realizing their full potential until we breathe life into them, make them flesh and carry them into being.

Sure, there's the Great Example of this -- i.e. what 25 December's always been about. Thing is, though, we're not just called on to gaze admiringly upon the mystery, but follow where it's led and (ever accompanied by no shortage of fits, starts, frustrations and falls), do our best to draw it in and model our lives upon it.

Ergo, as opposed to taking something in today, maybe it'd be better for us all instead to take a word and make it flesh -- if nothing else, at least to try.

Especially in these crazy pre-Christmas days, it'd seemingly be easier than usual -- year after year, time's always pressing and precious in these days, and many thoughts, plans and ideas run through our heads that we'd like to do, only to slip just as quickly between the cracks. And, well, something seems to say that there exist as many (or even more) of these unfleshed words as there are the number of us, so whether it's an unwritten card, that unmade prayer or call, a promise we've made to ourselves or another but haven't yet made good on, maybe even the important thing looming in mind that we've been shying away from doing out of fear, placing all sorts of distractions in its way, time might be running short... but while the door's still slightly open, here's our chance. Whatever it might be, odds are our Christmases will be all the better and richer for it, and someone else's will, too.

And, lastly, a second suggestion and wish for all of us, especially given the ever more dire state of things that surrounds us in these days.

Looking about, it's always easy and moving to see the degree to which the lot of us know a lot of things -- between us, we know liturgy and law, good governance and great art, policy, history, ministry, theology, Scripture, languages and no shortage of other good stuff... and, God knows, everyone wants to know the next appointment. (Or ten.) But sometimes, too, we can appear to know some lesser qualities all too well, and when these pop up, the world outside -- a place where more folks than we can wrap even our collective mind around are thirsting to know something other than suffering, despair and a lack of meaning -- has its great and oft-unsung way of expecting something more, something better from each of us than we might find ourselves actually doing... and, more than just sometimes, it signals this by ignoring or marginalizing us until we finally double down, follow through and come up with the goods.

Thing is, though, we're more than capable of this better, this more -- but just like preparing any other gift, all it is takes a bit more effort. And, come as it is at a moment where even more folks than usual are feeling no hope, it's crucially important that this Christmas, above everything else we know and do so well, we especially "Know Hope," so others might, too.

From the ad intra to the public square, the word's been impossible to miss this year, but to simply let it fly past as an easy slogan or an esoteric nicety isn't really optional while, within our doors alone, the sliding scale of sadness ranges from the ever-growing number of "Blue Christmas" liturgies for the grieving to the tens of thousands of blue Christmases being felt by jobless parents forced out of their homes, living off quickly-vanishing savings, heartbroken that they couldn't get the kids what they wanted, and countless more rending realities even far beyond these.

No, you can't plug it in, wrap it in a box nor send it UPS; it won't keep the utilities running where their future's in doubt nor wipe away every worry overnight, but the most crisis-tried of traditions tells us that our lives would be a lot emptier, infinitely darker and worlds poorer were Hope not born for us as a brutal winter's night bore down on a Family faced with no place to go but their age's equivalent of a backalley.

If more folks knew It could be had, It'd be this year's runaway most-requested gift. And, well, that's where we come in.

Of course, the virtue is always an important part of the message of Christmas, but among us at this year's Masses will be many more families for whom, in one way or another, the words "no room at the inn" are less a distant image than their own Christmas story than at any point in decades. And while the words all come incarnate in the Complete Package whose arrival we celebrate, the work falls to each of us to take the creche we look upon and the fulfilled promises we sing about -- comfort, joy, light, peace, love; freedom from fear, newness of life, salvation -- and truly make them flesh for our own who'll come finding themselves needing each in ways they likely never would've imagined this time last year.

Bottom line: if we don't know this Hope ourselves, no one else will. If we fail to carry It in our arms, in our words and on our faces, we rob others of It. And though His parents were turned away from the inn of Bethlehem, His inn is always waiting and ever has a place for all who seek it out -- provided, in flesh, we each keep its lights on and its doors open... because, indeed, for the many travelers and holy families in our midst feeling worn and cold from a desolate ride this year, the innkeeper is each of us.

Especially this Christmas, church, just as we know that Hope is born for us, may It likewise be born from us... that everyone we meet might come to adore Him who longs to bring a new birth of His comfort, light and joy into a scared and broken world that cries ever louder for their coming.

Er, so much for the intended brevity... but, hey, what's new? Try to forgive the fleeting reflection, but please, always know hope... and with four days to go, a blessed and buona domenica to one and all.