If we've recently talked at length you know that much of my thought has been centered around this idea of paradox. It’s my belief that when you find yourself lost in the paradoxical teachings of the Christian story that’s when the sound of an old door creaks ajar and you find yourself slowly opening the wardrobe that leads to an entire other world.
The prophet Isaiah gives a glimpse within this Advent scripture…
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
Does that sound like dry information to be neatly packaged into a chapter of a systematic theology book? In the same manner as Jesus’ interactions with religious leaders throughout the gospels, paradox challenges our best efforts at orthodoxy. It’s meant to confound, to humble, and leave one hushed in silenced. And if the silence is never experienced, I think the message of Christmas has eluded us.
A young, poor, peasant virgin would be visited by an angel who would tell her she would be the one to carry and give birth to a Messiah son. Wouldn’t we love to imagine the real-life process Mary experienced within her soul in the days following?
The way paradox leads us seldom if ever can be described as a season of relaxation. What draws the children back into the wardrobe isn’t the fact that Narnia is a life of ultimate comfort and mind-numbing fantasy. What intrigue’s them enough to step in again is nothing more than the simple child-like belief that it is real. Although it defies grown-up reason, to the children it feels more like reality… like how life was originally intended to be.
If I stop and allow myself to get lost in, caught up in the story of Christmas I approach life in the manner God intends, from the powerless posture of a child. I know I’m in a good place when I have no interpretation in which to clearly articulate. When no cognitive unfolding can adequately be verbalized to get at the mysterious presence of the Prince of Peace that’s when you know it’s real. When it can only be lived rather than described using words, that’s when I believe he’s got me where he wants me.
Yeah, it’s a fleeting place, as Thomas Merton said it’s a place where we’re “content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting any immediate reward” where we “love without an instantaneous satisfaction” and we “exist without any special recognition.” I seldom live there, but getting lost in the Advent process gently nudges me closer to that holy perspective.
The perspective of a child… vulnerable yet secure, powerless, yet capable of powerfully leading.