“The House of Christmas” by G.K. Chesterton

I thank God for technology. I come across things through technology and social media that otherwise I would not be wise enough to seek out, especially around meaningful seasons and significant events. I also thank God for tradition. Tradition is that all-too-often-forgotten great pillar of the Church through which we interpret truth as the activity of God in the past informs our understanding of the present and future. Some of the richest treasures of the Church are some of the oldest. Fortunately, time sifts out the unenduring.

I found a treasure this Christmas for the first time that was handed down to me from unknowing saints of another generation through social media. If you have never encountered it either, I pray it blesses you as you meditate on it in the last week of the Advent season, the time in which we remember and celebrate the glorious epiphany of the Incarnation – God is with us. Hallelujah.

 

“The House of Christmas”

a poem by G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936)

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

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Emmanuel, God Made Known

I was watching an interview recently of a Grammy Award winning pop singer/songwriter in which the pop star described with great passion his life-long pursuit of “this infinite unknown.” He said he considered his first relationship to have been with this “something greater” and how all other relationships have failed because of his devotion to this One. He went on to describe the addictive sensation of feeling like all of his music and song ideas were communicated to his conscious by this Unknown, an intimate-feeling relationship to be sure. But what struck me is that in this most intimate and life-long of relationships for this man, this Something Greater is still entirely unknown to him. What mortal loneliness.

The words immediately call to mind a story in Acts of Paul preaching to people in Athens where he has come across an altar to “an Unknown God.” He says he has come to tell them about this God who has made Himself known through a Man He has appointed, “and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

Christmas is the celebration of God having made Himself known. The Incarnation is identification at its fullest. One of the church fathers, Tertullian, said, “No more complete revelation of God’s empathic love is possible than this:  that God shares our human frame, participates in our human limitations, enters our human sphere.” (see Hebrews 2:18 and 4:14-16). The Incarnation is revelation at its clearest. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” In Jesus, God identifies fully with humanity and has fully revealed to us what divinity looks like. Humans wonder, “What is God really like?” Christmas answers, God has fully revealed both what He is like and what we are meant to be. Even those who hear of Jesus (and might think he is wonderful!) might ask, “Will God really turn out to be like Jesus?” Jesus is nice, but what if God is mean? Hallelujah that in Jesus God has revealed all of Himself. This is the miracle of Christmas. T. F. Torrance once said, “…God is indeed really like Jesus, and there is no unknown God behind the back of Jesus for us to fear; to see the Lord Jesus is to see the very face of God.”

I invite you to look into the face of a loving Savior this Advent season and see the very face of God. See the face of Emmanuel, the God who is with us and has made Himself known, the God who loves you more than I could possibly imagine.

Merry Christmas