Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas: Metaphors Need Not Apply

I would like to suggest a movie to watch as Christmas day approaches. About a couple years ago I had the opportunity to rent The Nativity. My sole expectation of this movie was to provide a few nice personal spiritual reflections for myself. What I actually received that night was an incredible grace from God that brought me to me knees crying. Before I continue, I would like to preface that The Nativity is clearly not a big budget film so don’t expect anything visually grandiose. This is no Passion of the Christ. The angel Gabriel looked as if he had just come from Saturday Night Fever while apparently not having enough time to grab a quick twenty-first century haircut before delivering a rather important message to Mary. Furthermore, the portrayal of Mary is less than satisfying at times. However, all-in-all this was a great film that I recommend to everyone.

While everything up to the last thirty minutes of the movie was great, I had not shed a tear. It was the last ten minutes of this movie that lead me to my knees. When I saw the birth of our Lord my eyes immediately began to glaze over. I was initially speechless and motionless. Then, IT happened. Like water I somehow found myself taking the path of least resistance to my knees. Something had "unlocked" deep in my soul; a wall had been broken, a dam had been shattered and years of built up tears hemorrhaged from my eyes. I hid my face in the cushions of my couch for I had never felt this vulnerable in front of "no one." Thoughts began surfacing as fast as my tears were running down my face. "What have I done to you? Why have I confined you to abstraction for so many years? Please forgive me! I have wasted so much time pursuing you exclusively as a thought! You were child! You were really a child? This is unbelievable! You were actually a baby? I don't understand!" Thoughts like these continued for what felt like hours. I would have been fully content with this intimate encounter with the humanity of Christ, but our Lord wanted me to go deeper. I was still thinking objectively. I believe Christ wanted to meet me in the inner most sanctum of my heart. He did so and with aggression.

As I mentioned above, thoughts kept pouring through my mind as all this was happening. At one point in time (the analytical side of me) I tried processing my emotions. I was moved to my knees with a deluge of tears and I wanted to know why. I tried rationalizing my emotions. As I tried to activate my mind so as to grasp the origin of this emotional state my mind felt as if it was trapped under a freight train. Moving my mind was like trying to bench press a thousand pounds; the effort was futile leading only to exhaustion. I'm reminded of what Chesterton once said about the logician: "The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” My head was on the verge of splitting so I submitted to the ecstatic power of God.

I had been holding on too tightly to my mind which was preventing me to go to my heart. As soon as I cut that last intellectually dependent thread I fell rapidly to the inner most dwelling place of my heart. I honestly do not know how it happened but it happened. As if the tears could not flow more quickly from my face, when I reached my own heart my entire body collapsed into futility. This is when my own most intimate and deepest longing was revealed to me! I had realized that the yearning in my heart was not to be forgiven, nor to be called a son, nor to be justified, nor to have a free ticket to heaven. My longest desire was to be touched by God! However, any kind of metaphoric touching would not do. I need God to physically touch me. Then it came to me. Before our Lord incarnation, such desires could only be met through metaphor. It was only at the incarnation that my deepest desires could finally be met. This is when I cried to the point of convulsion. Someday, Jesus will reach out his hand toward each and every one of us and physically touch us!

The reason I say all this is to express the beautiful reality that our longing to be embraced by another can be genuinely and physically met by God. No other religion adequately fulfills the natural and human desires of a human being as does Christianity! As we approach Christmas, may our prayers be filled with thanksgiving for we are incredibly grateful for a loving God who wants to fulfill our most human desires (and super-human desires). Have a blessed Christmas. Praised be Jesus Christ!

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