Impossible things.

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen advises Alice to practice believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast. It’s good advice. Unless we practice believing in the impossible daily and diligently, we cannot be Christians, those strange creatures who proclaim to believe that the Power that created the entire universe willingly and lovingly abdicated that power and became a human baby . . . How can we trivialize the Incarnation as we have done? Tawdry tinsel and crowded shopping malls are not the worst of it. Arguing about Christ’s divinity versus Jesus’ humanity is equally to miss the point. Like the White Queen we need merrily to accept the impossible (with us it is impossible; with God nothing is impossible!): the baby who was born two thousand years ago in Bethlehem was God, come to us as a human babe. Jesus: wholly human. It’s more than our puny minds can comprehend. It’s one reason Jesus kept insisting that we be as little children, because we can understand this wonder only with childheartedness, not with grown-up sophistication.

We can, to some extent, understand Jesus’ humanity. We can glory in but not understand, in any cognitive way, his divinity. We are still like that fetus in the womb, comfortably swimming around in the warm amniotic fluid, with no idea of what life out of the womb is going to be like. Unlike us grown-ups, the fetus seems to enjoy being without questions! Questions are fine as long as we do not insist on finite answers to questions which are infinite. How could Jesus be wholly God and wholly human? What does the resurrection of the body mean? How can God be good if terrible things are allowed to happen? How much free will do we have? Can we make a difference?

To that last question, at least, we can say Yes, and that Yes is easier for us to say because of Christmas. What a difference this birth makes to our lives! God, in human flesh, dignifies our mortal flesh forever. How did the schism between flesh and spirit ever come about to confuse and confound us? God put on our flesh and affirmed its holiness and beauty. How could we ever have fallen for the lie that spirit is good and flesh is evil? We cannot make our flesh evil, without corrupting spirit, too. Both are God’s and both are good, as all that our Maker made is good.

God created, and looked on Creation, and cried out, It is good!

At Christmastime, we look at that tiny baby who was born in Bethlehem, and we, too, may cry out, It is good! It is very good! -Madeleine L’Engle

One of the things that I have come to love about Christianity is how mysterious it really is. We cannot, as she says, insist on finite answers to questions that are infinite. And so I have moved out of a black-and-white cut-and-dried approach to my faith, and I have become comfortable with a little more mystery. It’s done me a lot of good, allowing me to embrace my faith, especially Christmas, with a more child-like enthusiasm, an enthusiasm that was lost for me when I focused more on theology. I’m not saying that theology isn’t important, because we should know what we believe. But I think we should also accept that our brains weren’t made to comprehend all of God’s mysteries. At Christmas, I enjoy abandoning what my puny mind can understand in favor of all-out celebration of a baby who was born who changed the world.

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