‘Twas The Day After Christmas…

On the Day After Christmas

A 1990 editorial in The New York Times  called W. H. Auden’s poem, For the Time Being “one of the most powerful expressions of the meaning of Christmas in the 20th century.”

The writer acknowledged that it “will never replace The Night Before Christmas or the seasonal pageant at Radio City Music Hall,” but it is “a Christmas that can glimpse redemption even in the trivialization of Christmas, a Christmas for the day after Christmas. This is a Christmas for grown-ups.”

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes –
Some have got broken – and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week –
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted – quite unsuccessfully –
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
(“For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio”  W.H. Auden: Collected Poems)

The Times editorial concluded that the challenge of the poem is “to recognize the miracle of God’s entry into all that is routine and mundane.”

May the Christ who came among us at Christmas be the One we find in the mundane days of our lives.

Grace and peace,

Jim

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Christmas in the Chaos

Christmas in the Chaos

Do you feel that we are attempting to celebrate Christmas in the middle of social and political chaos?

Marco Rubio got it right when he called Donald Trump “a chaos candidate” and predicted that he would be “a chaos President.”  Whether you agree with him or not, the daily (sometimes hourly) tweets and impulsive behavior of this President are the perfect match for the 24-hour cable TV news chatter that reinforces the chaotic pace of life in our technologically frenetic time.

My friend, Stephen Bauman lives and serves in the vortex of the chaos as Senior Pastor at Christ Church United Methodist in the heart of New York City. In this week’s devotions in The Upper Room Disciplines he wrote:

Wow!  Is it ever hard to cut through the clutter and noise and info bits and videos and pics and whatnot and hooha! We find it hard to sit still, quietly, intentionally, prayerfully, allowing ourselves the holy luxury of spiritual perplexity…Our time consumed by many trifles, we leave little in reserve for the things that matter most of all hiding in plain sight but lacking the snap-crackle of Instagram and Snapchat flicking across our consciences like a stone skipping on the water.

Phillips Brooks captured the deep truth that we could easily miss when he wrote:

How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given;
so God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.

A Moment for Mystery 

rubens-bigSo, here’s my invitation for you to take a seven-minute moment to experience the “holy luxury” of mystery by watching the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, sing “O Magnum Mysterium”.  The words are translated:

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Alleluia!

But the words don’t matter as much as creating a quiet space to allow the presence of Christ to enter into the chaos of our lives.

May you experience Christ in the chaos this Christmas!

Grace and peace,

Jim