Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monarch Butterflies, Paramecium, and the Mystery of Christmas

This time of year, we all beat each other about losing the true spirit of Christmas. I can't argue against our collective guilt. Awash in a world of decisions between where to shop, what to buy, and how to wrap the gifts. School vacations plan. Trees to light up. Meals to make. Friends to visit. Family to love and argue with...

It's hard hard to keep track of anything, much less the divinity of a baby born in in Israel over two thousand years ago. We can beat ourselves up over consumerism and loss of faith, but we should also be honest that it's hard to keep the focus on something beyond what our human brains to truly understand.

I can easily picture Mary and Joseph in a stable with Baby Jesus in a manger. Same thing with wise men following a really big star. Angels in the heavens are a little more difficult, but possible if  I mentally graft on some white wings.

That level of clarity doesn't extend to all the details. According to the Christian faith, Jesus fundamentally changed the relationship between God and humanity. As described in John 1:14, "[T]he Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the gory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." That concept is a lot more slippery. 

How can we grasp the nature of that massive spiritual inflection in human history when we can't figure out how to stop the cold virus or predict the weather with a higher degree of accuracy?

That doesn't mean we enough to form a connection with the Divine reality of Jesus; to sense and react to something deep, powerful and earth-changing. A Monarch Butterfly summering in southern Canada cannot perceive all of the details of its 2,500 mile migration to winter in Mexico, but it successfully makes the journey.



A paramecium doesn't need to understand everything about its environment to know that it needs to move towards warmth.



The physics of the Divinity of that child born in Bethlehem will always elude me, but there is something in my soul that knows that the son of God prophesy of Isaiah 7:14 was realized when Jesus was born to Mary. Matthew 1:18-25. It is the same voice that has spoken to other souls for over 2,000 years. In the same way that something in the Monarch Butterfly tells them it is time to begin flapping those little wings south and within the structure of the paramecium telling them to push and spin towards warmth.

That does not mean that Christmas is wrapped up in too much mystery to be celebrated and loved. There is a very basic concept that we can latch onto and treasure. The purpose of that child born in Israel was to help us each overcome our own personal battle between right and wrong.

Nothing is more obvious than the fact we cannot find the path to good on our own. We start out with the best of intentions and eventually slide off course. There is something incredibly good in us that knows that we can and should do better, but somehow we don't. Whether the fault lies on belief systems, brain functioning, or simply the human condition is up for debate; but the reality that we cannot find redemption on our own is self evident

In response, the Lord sent a child. I cannot understand exactly why, but I am eternally thankful that He did.

If you haven't heard it before, please take a few minutes to listen to Steve Earle's haunting Christmas song, "Nothing But a Child."

Merry Christmas.





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