Bert the beagle - a sixteen-year fixture at our house - is feeling his years. And, he lets me know this at 3:30 a.m., 5:20 a.m., or whenever the urge strikes him. Thus, I have been getting in and out of bed at weird times lately. Believe it or not, there is an entertaining aspect to this in the cold weather. As I return to bed in the dark, and pull back the covers, static sparks momentarily light my way. How strange to think that this energy is around us and in us all the time - yet unseen.
I thought of this as we put up the huge church Christmas tree (no, there are no pictures of it on my tiny car), and turned on the lights. Why do we put lights in our Christmas trees? Word has it that Luther put candles in his - not recommended these days. The funny thing is that mystics throughout the centuries have described seeing nature all lit up and buzzing, and while scientists may have once scoffed at such supposed fantasies, quantum physics is now inclined to describe the universe just that way - vibrating energy.
In the poem, "Aurora Leigh," Elizabeth Barrett-Browning famously said, "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round and pick blackberries." Annie Dillard shares her experience in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek: "One day I was walking along Tinker Creek thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I'm still spending the power."
I know we have to use figurative language to describe Christmas, but I am tired of saying Christ "came down." Wouldn't it be better to say Jesus was "uncovered," like the sparks which surprise me every night, right there between the sheet and blanket, sharp to my touch? God's loving intention is and always has been literally at hand, ready to shock us with grace. So, by all means, light your Christmas tree. Just remember, the sparks are already there.
Greg Bain, Pastor