“The snow looks light and the sky dark, but in fact the sky is lighter than the snow. Obviously the thing illumined cannot be lighter than its illuminator. The classical demonstration of this point involves simply laying a mirror flat on the snow so that it reflects in its surface the sky, and comparing by sight this value to that of the snow. This is all very well, even conclusive, but the illusion persists. The dark is overhead and the light at my feet; I’m walking upside-down in the sky.”
~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
It is Christmas. The very Nativity of Christ. The Incarnation itself.
And what of us?
The mystery of God, wrapped as a babe, is a deep one. I can never hope to plumb those depths. But I can listen, right here, right now, for the reverberations of that mystery. I can sink a little deeper in. And this year, when I survey the territory, I see that Christmas is a time for me to be still and cast my eyes up and in, at the Source of the Light.
I do this and I do that, I read and I pray, I worship and I serve. I give. I take. And when I am really on top of my game, I thank. And in all this doing, I all too often persist in the illusion that somehow what I need for salvation is entirely here in front of me, below my feet.
And rightly so.
For the Birth of Christ is the redemption of this broken world, and indeed all that we need is here. We are surrounded by a sea of humanity, each one a bearer of Christ, if only we can look and see. Creation speaks. The rocks cry out. And the spiritual toolbox overflows. I have a million books full of a billion words. I have the Church of God, weaving me into the fabric of eternity. I read and I write and I pray and I love. And truly, everything I need IS here.
But how often do I allow all that is good and perfect (and all that is mean and flawed) to point me to God? How often to I follow these pointers all the way to their destination?
For my actual salvation is only truly found in relationship. No matter how expertly (or inanely) I might wield every tool in the chest, if I am not looking beyond the illumined to the Illuminator, what have I gained?
Tonight a tiny babe is born into the world with the whole of God tucked into the folds of his swaddling. Tonight He calls me to be quiet. To carve out some moments of stillness in the bustle, silence in the noise. To sit with Him in the manger, and gaze.
And there we are. Walking upside-down in the sky, grasping for the Light where only the dim reflection is to be found. Let’s not settle. Let’s redeem it all, and reach beyond the veil.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!