I want to share something about Christmas. Before I do, however, I want to state that I have seen enough, experienced enough, learned enough, and have lived long enough to disbelieve what I say below if I were ever going to do so. But I cannot not believe it. It is in the marrow of my bones and in my lungs and in my heart.
It is almost Christmas Day. I believe, even more than a child can, that an angel of the LORD appeared to shepherds in the field who followed the angel’s words to Bethlehem. I believe that they followed the light to a manger where they found a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth, where animals stood or laid nearby. I believe that the mother was a virgin who birthed the Son of God. That wise men, bearing gifts, eventually presented themselves sometime afterwards. I believe that they had been looking for years for what the shepherds saw one holy night through serendipitous circumstance and followed it. I believe that Joseph and Mary raised Jesus and that eventually he raised them.
I have seen and experienced enough in childhood and manhood that could contradict this wild story, but I believe it. I don’t believe it like wishing. I believe it like air. I don’t see air; I breathe it in and out, not by faith alone, but for life itself. I don’t just believe it. I know it like air. And I live in it like air. It is what keeps me going in the midst of all the realities of the sorrows I have seen and experienced, and will see and experience again. My heart is made bigger than its scars. We never have to be alone because of what happened that star-filled night. We never have to give up hope. The eyes of our hearts have received this great light, this great intimacy in our longings, this great lasting air, the air that can reach into the suffocating circumstances of everything. Emmanuel, God With Us, is with us still, and will always be with us.