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Twas the night before Christmas

by davesandel on July 30th, 2022

Saturday, July 30, 2022

            (click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Twas the night before Christmas

Overheard on Christmas Eve in a small church in Cornwall, as a huge storm gathers in the sky above.

“Very old, them crosses are, rector,” said Old George unexpectedly, firm and clear. “Made a long time before Christianity. Long before Christ.” The rector beamed at him. “But not before God,” he said simply.

Young Will Stanton spoke up. “There’s not really any before and after, is there?” he said. “Everything that matters is outside Time.” Mr Beaumont turned to Will in surprise. “You mean infinity, of course, my boy.”

“Not altogether,” said the Old One that was Will. “I mean the part of all of us, and of all the things we think and believe, that has nothing to do with yesterday or today or tomorrow because it belongs at a different kind of level. Yesterday is still there, on that level. Tomorrow is there too. You can visit either of them. And all Gods are there, and all the things they have ever stood for.”

And,” he added sadly, “the opposite, too.”

“Will,” said the rector, staring at him, “I am not sure whether you should be exorcised or ordained. You and I must have some long talks, very soon.”

“Yes, we must,” Will said equably.

But Will gets very busy very quickly, as the youngest of the Old Ones carrying the Light, who defend mankind against the Dark. We are midway through Susan Cooper’s five volume series The Dark is Rising, and though these books are perhaps intended for teens, I’m fascinated.

I think of what Will meant when he said “And the opposite, too.”

Herod arrested John, bound him and put him in prison. He wanted to kill him but was afraid. Herodias danced and delighted Herod and then asked, “Bring me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist. The distressed king ordered it and John was beheaded in the prison. The party played on into the night. John’s head was brought in on a platter. His disciples took away the corpse, and they went and told Jesus.

Jesus, an Old One defending mankind from the evil of the Dark, cries out in grief for John. Jesus knows the limitations of time, a bit of which Will sought to share with his rector.

There’s not really any before and after, is there? Everything that matters is outside Time.

But John has died now, and so will Jesus. His wails might be muted, but he is in agony, crossing back and forth between Now and Then, between Time and Eternity.

In our centering prayer time this week, Mary Lou shared a passage written by Henri Nouwen.

The word “care” comes from Old English “kara,” which means to lament, to participate in suffering.

To care is to enter into the world of those who are only touched by hostile hands, to listen attentively to those whose words are only heard by greedy ears, and to speak gently with those who are used to harsh orders and impatient requests.

To care is to be present to those who suffer and to stay present even when nothing can be done to change their situation.

Jesus laments, participates in the suffering of his people, John’s people, our people … us. Jesus enters into the hostile world, surrounded by the Dark, held hostage by beginnings and ends of things, caught in time. He comes in there with us, as God surrenders his power in favor of his infinite mercy.

When the humble confession of our basic human brokenness forms the ground from which all skillful healing comes forth, then care can be welcomed not as a property to be claimed, but as a gift to be shared in gratitude.

Christmas in July? Just a couple more days to celebrate. God is with us!


(Jeremiah 26, Psalm 69, Matthew 5, Matthew 14)

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