The Unimaginable Greatness of Christmas

Imagine eternity.

Imagine infinity—imagine absolute life and infinite power, with no beginning, with no end. Imagine infinite size, infinite mind, absolute knowledge, absolute holiness in being and motive—perfection beyond anything anyone ever dreamt—absolute power to create and destroy at will, with perfect absence of malice and perfect omniscient Justice.

Such power—such absolute personhood—holy and just, vast and unstoppable, light so bright and holiness so utterly blinding that only the perfectly holy could ever see His face. Yet He is perfectly compassionate, absolutely loving, full of grace, full of mercy—all characteristics directed at others—at corrupt others—directed at the rebellious, rejecting, wicked things that He, in the beginning, created to be recipients of His giving nature—His love and grace. Directed at us.

And suddenly the simple, often clichéd statement Jesus made to a desperate Pharisee takes on new force, new weight, fresh worship:

For God so loved—He gave…

Jesus even told us to address this One Infinite, Eternal, All-powerful, All-knowing, All-holy, All-righteous, All-discerning, utterly Just, utterly Vast God as Daddy.

That is miraculous. That is Christmas.

O, come let us adore Him.

—j

 

The Eucatastrophe of History (Merry Christmas)

Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien declared, “The Incarnation of God is an infinitely greater thing than anything I would dare to write…” (italics in the original). But later on he tried. Here is what he wrote…

The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and at the same time powerfully symbolic and allegorical; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable Eucatastrophe… The Birth of Christ is the Eucatastrophe of man’s history. The Resurrection is the Eucatastrophe of the story of the incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

“It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be ‘primarily’ true, its narrative to be history, without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult, for one is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the ‘turn’ in a fairy-story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth (otherwise its name would not be joy). It looks forward (or backward—the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is pre-eminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. Because this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and history have met and fused.”

Good job, Ronald, and Merry Christmas to all.

—j

Come Ye, Joyful and Triumphant

Come and behold Him, born the King of angels…

“Here from this stable, here, from this Nazareth, this stony beach, this Jerusalem, this market place, this garden, this Praetorium, this Cross, this mountain, I announce it to you. I announce to you what is guessed at in all the phenomena of your world. You see the corn of wheat shrivel and break open and die, but you expect a crop. I tell you of the Springtime of which all springtimes speak. I tell you of the world for which this world groans and toward which it strains. I tell you that beyond the awful borders imposed by time and space and contingency, there lies what you seek. I announce to you life instead of mere existence, freedom instead of frustration, justice instead of compensation. For I announce to you redemption. Behold I make all things new. Behold I do what cannot be done. I restore the years that the locusts and worms have eaten. I restore the years [that] you have drooped away upon your crutches and in your wheelchair. I restore the symphonies and operas which your deaf ears have never heard, and the snowy massif your blind eyes have never seen, and the freedom lost to you through plunder and the identity lost to you because of calumny [slander] and the failure of justice; and I restore the good which your own foolish mistakes have cheated you of. And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow.” —Thomas Howard, Christ the Tiger

O come, let us adore Him.

—j

The One-Word Telegram

The following account may or may not be historical. Either way, it’s true.

It was Christmas Eve, 1910. General William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army was an invalid and near the end of his life—it was impossible for him to attend the Army’s annual convention. 

Someone near the General suggested that Booth send a telegram to be read at the opening of the convention to the many Salvation Army soldiers in attendance as an encouragement for their many hours of labor serving others throughout the holidays and the cold winter months. Booth agreed.

Funds were limited and telegrams charged by the word, so to ensure as much money as possible would still go to help the needy, General Booth decided to send a one word message. He searched his mind and reviewed his years of ministry, seeking the one word that would summarize his life, the mission of the Army and encourage the soldiers to continue on.

When the thousands of delegates met, the moderator announced that Booth could not be present due to his failing health. Gloom and pessimism swept across the convention floor until the moderator announced that Booth had sent a telegram to be read at the start of the first session. He opened the message and read just one word:

“Others!”
Signed, General Booth.

“Others!”

A fascinating tale is told of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. The account might be legendary, but it is also wonderfully provocative. The story goes that around 1900 the General was preparing to send his annual Christmas greeting to all his Salvationists serving around the world. Since this had to be done by telegraph—which charged for each word sent—the whole process proved quite expensive. Times were tough that year, and it was calculated that there was only enough money available to wire a single word to each missionary. The one-word message the General chose to send simply said, “Others!”

I have found that when I set out to make my day good for me or do good things for myself, at the end of that day I ponder whether or not it was truly a good day. And as I reflect on my puzzling lack of fullness, I wonder why I am even concerned about it at all.

Ever felt like that?

But when I set out to make the day better for someone else, for “others”—an encouraging phone call or visit, a prayer for a friend, a kind word to a stranger, lending a helping hand with a chore or just holding a hand—when my day has been about others, I sleep well at night and never wonder whether or not the day was good. It was.

Life is always about others—we’re built that way despite all the selfie trends floating around this world. And others is what Jesus has always been about. Look at everything He did—it was always for someone else. You can even tell by His arrival on earth as a baby and by how much we cherish that thing we call the “Christmas Spirit”. God gave us Jesus and Jesus gave everything. But He also took a few things, too—our sins and our guilt, and He took the sting out of death. For others. For us. For you.

So, have Merry Christmas and remember to have a wonderful day—every day. Like Jesus.

“Others!”