So many plan to travel home (flights permitting) this Christmas. Home is important at this time of year. And it should be.
The emphasis on home in this season is at variance with what is happening spiritually, with what we celebrate as Christmas. To engage this tension is to understand why we have such difficulty sustaining these images, why Christmas comes but once a year, stays so little time, and creates as much havoc as holiness in our lives. It is the romance – a wonderful, if temporary high. But it is reality which accompanies us for the long haul.
The angel came to Mary by night – a visit which comes with the comforting assurances of the love of God, and leaves with the discomforting reality that his ways are not ours. God promises to be with Mary, but the assurance is not of safety and security. From this moment, home will never be home for Mary again. God’s presence in that young woman’s life is not that of hearth -loving husband, nor of powerful protector. God will be with Mary violently and vibrantly, in a child conceived in mystery and born on the move. Joseph had it right: this strange visitation is an embarrassment beyond explanation. All the romance we have woven to wrap the reality in cosy warmth, to make it bearable, will never be enough to contain it.
This is the way with God. He will not be contained. That was the message delivered to Mary. He will dwell in the midst of us. That is why the Christmas we see each year is a fleeting thing, as ephemeral as we. Like all the romantic residences we erect to snare the wandering spirit of God, it is too weak a net to hold the force that gives all things life. Even in the sheltering warmth of our fanciful crib, we bend over a baby born of tension, a child of earth.
Adapted from Sam Portaro, Daysprings
Cowley Publications, Boston 2001.