A Flight of Geese

What does this secular Christmas card scene have to do with the Biblical Christmas narrative? Nothing – at least not directly. I can understand how some want to separate the Biblical narrative from such sentimentality. We don’t know what time of year Jesus was born and the narrative is uninterested in such things. Our Christmas trappings certainly have nothing to do with the Bible’s story of Jesus’ birth. On another level, though, experiences like this have everything to do with Christmas.

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And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14

John 1:1-14

My office is located in a an old red brick stable, and at this time of year I often remember that Jesus was born in a similar facility. If that stable was anything like this one, “all is calm” is not an apt description of his place of birth.

I remember leaving the office after sunset one evening, while the red glow of the winter sun still offered the illusion of warmth on the horizon. Nearly a foot of snow covered the ground and the temperature had hovered in the single digits all week long. The freezing temperatures kept the snow pristine and the recent clearing of the skies gave the winter dusk a stark beauty. Rows of century-old red-brick residences lined the streets near the old stable. White Christmas lights that ran along the tops of the wooden porches stood out against the darkening sky. A frozen, snow-covered pond sat across the road from the office parking lot, and a flight of geese flew in perfect formation across the pond and over my head. On the car radio, Nat “King” Cole sang “The Christmas Song.” [1] As Cole sang, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” I was temporarily transported into a living, three-dimensional Christmas-card. It felt pretty good after a hectic and discordant day at work.

What does this picture have to do with the Biblical Christmas narrative? Nothing – at least not directly. I can understand how some want to separate the Biblical narrative from such sentimentality. We don’t know what time of year Jesus was born and the narrative is uninterested in such things. Our Christmas trappings certainly have nothing to do with the Bible’s story of Jesus’ birth.

On another level, though, experiences like this have everything to do with Christmas. I experienced in the evening sky and a flight of geese the beauty and wonder of creation. The story of the incarnation is creation-affirming. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. The redemption God offers in Jesus is the fulfillment of creation, not the negation of it. Some of the sentimentality of the season imperfectly captures that fact: whatever is wrong with this world, it’s good to be a human on planet earth. Christmas affirms that truth, even as it looks forward to the day when the good will become better.

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[1] Here’s a little trivia: Mel Torme, who co-wrote “The Christmas Song” with Robert Wells, was Jewish. They wrote the song on a hot summer day in 1944 when Torme was 19. Wells started writing the lyrics not to produce a song, but to take his mind off the heat.