[F]or everyone finds sooner or later that we are none of us quite at home. Christmas is homely with the children, but the children grow up and leave home. Things slip away. The place where we live is not what it was. It hardly seems the same country, people behave so badly now. One day, we must retire from work. One day, not far off, our home will know us no longer. Yet we nurse a nostalgia for home, a yearning never quite satisfied. We seem to hunger for a home beyond the changeable world. “My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God,” the Psalmist declares. “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars.”
For Christians, who will be going out in the dark for midnight Mass, or walking together to church in the fresh morning, Christmas is the day when unclimbable heaven reaches down to touch earthly reality. The cosmos is, as it were, turned inside out. Jesus, a newborn baby, is the point where the transcendent infinite enters the created world. His birth pierces the veil between heaven and earth. The Word, who is God, says St John, was made flesh and dwelt among us. In the original, dwelt is “to pitch a tent”, a temporary presence. The Child is (as we hear in Handel’s Messiah) Emmanuel, a name that means “God With Us”. He, like us, has no abiding home here. His exile on donkey-back to Egypt stands for the exile shared by all mankind. Yet he knows the way back home, indeed he says that he is the way.
Truth, light, love – these are things that anyone, Christian or not, rejoices to find at home. As human values, they go beyond the achievement of daily endeavours, for they embody hope. To seek the way towards them is to take the first steps towards home.
We are learning new words these days. High school students can tell you about “anthropogenic” climate change, and the dangers of “anthropocentric” thinking. Man is the problem you see — too much anthropos around. The world would be better off with fewer of us, a sentiment thinly-veiled at the recent Copenhagen summit.
Perhaps we need Christmas more than usual this year, though we are always in need of the good news about the baby born in Bethlehem. Christians celebrate at Christmas the coming of God as man, the eternal Son of the Father coming as man in Jesus Christ. What is celebrated is the birth of a baby, an occasion commemorated in every culture in every time and place. Every baby is good news. Lest we forget that elementary truth, Christmas reminds us. In churches the world over the Baby Jesus will be placed this night in the manger. Around nativity scenes little children will gather, fascinated by the wonder of it all.
Adults, burdened and weary by the toil and affliction of this world, can forget that fascination. But the Christian claim has not lost its power to captivate, to perplex, to inspire. God has become man. There is something very anthropocentric about the divine plan.
Those of us who are of Catholic mind do not believe that the Enlightenment began with Kant (“What is Enlightenment?”), or Locke or Newton, or even with Descartes. We cherish Plato, Aristotle, Cicero. But the first Enlightenment began with Christ Our Lord.
It was only with the Christ that EQUALITY meant every human being, barring none. From then on, no one was “barbarian.” Each bore in his own soul the mark of being called to be a dwelling of the Father and the Son — being called beyond all other calls a son of God. Neither mother nor father, neither civil society nor state, can answer to this call for you or me. None has any deeper bond or precedence than the relation of Creator and human creature. It is a bond of Spirit and Truth.
Thus was revealed each human’s LIBERTY primordial, and in that liberty, EQUALITY with all.
And so on, with more all-caps words coming.
A very useful list, and the bit at the end:
The best Oliver Stone Christmas song never filmed:<br/> Fun fact: The official signal for the scramble to evacuate the US Embassy in Saigon a quarter-century ago was the playing of Bing’s ‘White Christmas’ — and no one’s ever put it in a Vietnam movie (excepting one British TV adaptation).
Merry Christmas! And now I’m off to to make a trifle.