Raindrops, pelting against my home-office window like news releases of disaster and war that battered my soul and challenged my faith in God and man, obscured the bucolic view into the forest and my hopes for a better world.
Will it snow soon, coat the darkness in white?
It was the first week of Advent, and I struggled to stay focused on hope, joy, and celebration as well as the “goodness” of humankind in a world where self-interest too often presides over community. The news was bleak, discouraging and fraught with despair, my half-full cup draining into emptiness.
In desperation, I turned to a source where, in the past, this reluctant disciple has often found rekindled faith. My uneasiness was allayed by Frederick Buechner’s words, an excerpt from a meditation he gave, and published in his book, The Clown in the Belfry. And so, hopefully with Buechner’s permission, I offer you his words of solace, so much more eloquent and appropriate for the moment than mine:
“It was thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, but it is a visit that for all our madness and cynicism and indifference and despair we have never quite forgotten. The oxen in their stalls. The smell of hay. The shepherds standing around. The child and that place are somehow the closest of all close encounters, the one we are closest to, the one that brings us closest to something that cannot be told in any other way. This story that faith tells in the fairytale language of faith is not just that God is, which God knows is a lot to swallow in itself much of the time, but that God comes. Comes here. ‘In the great humility.’ There is nothing much humbler than being born: naked, totally helpless, not much bigger than a loaf of bread. But with righteousness and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. And to us came. For us came. Is it true—not just the way fairy tales are true but as the truest of all truths? Almighty God, are you true?
When you are standing up to your neck in darkness, how do you say Yes to that question? You say Yes, I suppose, the only way faith can ever say it if it is honest with itself. You say Yes with your fingers crossed. You say it with your heart in your mouth. Maybe that way we can say Yes. He visited us. The world has never been quite the same since. It is still a very dark world, in some ways darker than ever before, but the darkness is different because he keeps getting born into it. The threat of holocaust. The threat of poisoning the earth and sea and air. The threat of our own deaths. The broken marriage. The child in pain, the lost chance. Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit most often.”
The view into the forest from my window remains unchanged. The book has been returned to the shelf where it never gathers dust, and I reoccupy the seat at my desk—fingers crossed and heart in my mouth—Advent has arrived.