Thursday, December 20, 2012

Do you know what I know?

"Said the Shepherd boy to the mighty king, 'Do you know what I know? In your palace warm mighty King? Do you know what I know?
 A child, a child, shivers in the cold...."

from "Do You Hear What I Hear?" lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne

I have heard the Christmas Story all my room at the inn, born surrounded by animals, placed in a manger. It's something I've known, believed, and accepted. Jesus Christ was born in a barn, and the Wisemen followed the North Star to find him, praise him, glorify him.

But wait...Jesus Christ, King of Kings, was BORN IN A STABLE. OUTSIDE. In the FREEZING COLD.  I'm sorry if you have truly thought about this and processed it before, but I don't think I have.  Although I know the story well, I don't think I ever truly appreciated it. 
While other kings of the time were born in palaces, and adorned in fine silks and surrounded in luxury, our Lord was wrapped in swaddling clothes that were most likely filthy and then he was placed in a manger full of hay. Our King was brought into the world under circumstances that could be described as humble at best. And this is amazing.  Everything about his birth and life are amazing. He lived like a man, not a king. He was never surrounded by riches and luxury. His wealth came from spreading peace and love. His luxuries were healing and saving others.  His life was about what he could give, not what he could acquire.

And his death?  "He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died, and was buried". How many times have I recited this creed in Mass without truly absorbing it. He was CRUCIFIED. As is exCRUCIating pain. I won't go into the details of crucifixion as I am sure we are pretty aware of what it details. But my mind has blocked me from the reality of how He died, which was not gloriously or humbly, but tragic.

But back to his birth, as that is what Christmas is about. What a gift we received that night, those of us who call ourselves Christians. When a woman gave birth in a barn, surrounded by donkeys and sheep, to the baby who would grow up to be the greatest King of all time. And he shivered in the cold in a manger, not comfortable in a luxurious, warm palace. A humble and real beginning to the life of a humble and real man, who is also the Lord. I've known this for a long time, but have been pretty slow in coming to understand it. Knowing and appreciating are two very different things.

Merry Christmas and I hope you and your loved ones feel Peace and Grace this Holiday Season. I hope your kids squeal when they open their presents, and that their delight is a balm to your soul. I hope nothing is mundane and ordinary for you this Christmas, that it is filled with love and happiness. And if you feel inspired to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus with your kids, I hope you do it. I know we will.