One of my favorite quotes regarding the Christmas story comes from one of my favorite Frederick Buechner sermons. It captures the tension of it all. The world, or a person, can only come upon Peace, by walking through danger. Safety has to be in doubt to understand the value of Advent. The one who understands the situation may ask, “God is with us? Is that safe?”
The incarnation reveals the danger slicing both ways. Every hero is willing to face danger, to put their own safety into question. The voiceless baby was swaddled and placed in a feeding trough. A more helpless picture could not be captured. His heroism culminated as he was nailed, not helplessly but willingly, on the cross.
In his sermon titled “The Face in the Sky” from Luke 2:8-12 Beuchner attempts to capture the redemption in this tension.
“Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go to or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man. If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too. And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and recreate the human heart because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully. For those who believe in God, it means, this birth, that God himself is never safe from us, and maybe that is the dark side of Christmas, the terror of the silence. He comes in such a way that we can always turn him down, as we could crack the baby’s skull like an eggshell or nail him up hen he gets too big for that.”
May the beautiful tension of Christmas fill our hearts with new wonder.