Terror and Wonder
Two thousand or so years ago, a baby entered this world. The golden drop of Heaven descended into a manger of hay. Events surrounding His descent were filled with terror and wonder. Shepherds were terrified at a Bright Being telling them Good News of His arrival. These same shepherds later marveled at the manger and returned home filled with wonder, rejoicing at what they had seen.
Even in that day, a massacre of children was a ghastly part of the story. Terror-stricken parents grieved the loss of their babes, as distant Kings were wonder-struck by an infant King for whom a Star heralded the way.
We are never asked to sugar-coat the very real terrors of our world. Nor are we left on our own to deal with them. We are asked to hold both the Terror and the Wonder in our hands and hearts. We are called to allow the Golden Drop to permeate everything and undo all the sadness and fear.
C.S. Lewis knew this well. In the chapter (from which this series takes it’s title) from Lewis’ third and final book of a space trilogy, That Hideous Strength, , we read:
“Do you know,” said Ivy in a low voice, “that’s a thing I don’t quite understand. They’re so eerie, these ones that come to visit you. I wouldn’t go near that part of the house if I thought there was anything there, not if you paid me a hundred pounds. But I don’t feel like that about God. But He ought to be worse, if you see what i mean.” “He was, once,” said the Director. “You are quite right about the Powers. Angels in general are not good company for men in general, even when they are good angels and good men. It’s all in St. Paul. But as for Maleldil Himself, all that has changed: it was changed by what happened at Bethlehem.”
For today, at least today, we need not pull. We need not strive. Our efforts to bring bits of heaven into our darkened world can be set aside for a moment. Deep Heaven has come to us. All we need do is receive. Laying down our weapons of peace for beating back the darkness, we can marvel and wonder at the incarnation of God. Light has come to us. Heaven has descended. And we gasp and whisper the Beauty to one another, like candles lighting other candles, saying He is here! He is here!
May your Christmas Day be filled with a Wonder that seeps into the sad and fearful places of your life. May it lift you aloft to be able to see Light in places you haven’t seen it before…in manure filled barns, in empty stockings, in stars, and even, (can we speak it?), even in terrifying tragedies.
It came upon the midnight clear
It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, from heav'n's all gracious king The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing. Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurl And still their heavenly music floats, O'er all the weary world. Above its sad and lowly plains they bend on hovering wing And ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing. O ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low Who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow Look now for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing. For lo the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old When with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold When the new heaven and earth shall own the prince of peace their King And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!