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A Christmas Healing

Text: John 1:1-5

The Presbyterian pastor and novelist, Frederick Buechner sends us this Christmas gift:

“The young clergyman and his wife do all the things you do on Christmas Eve. They string the lights and hang the ornaments. They supervise the hanging of the stockings. They tuck in the children. They lug the presents down out of hiding and pile them under the tree.

“Just as they're about to fall exhausted into bed, the husband remembers his neighbor's sheep. The man asked him to feed them for him while he was away, and in the press of other matters that night he forgot all about them. So down the hill he goes through knee-deep snow. He gets two bales of hay from the barn and carries them out to the shed. There's a forty-watt bulb hanging by its cord from the low roof, and he turns it on. The sheep huddle in a corner watching as he snaps the baling twine, shakes the squares of hay apart, and starts scattering it. Then they come bumbling and shoving to get at it with their foolish, mild faces, the puffs of their breath showing in the air.

“He is reaching to turn off the bulb and leave when suddenly he realizes where he is. The winter darkness. The glimmer of light. The smell of the hay and the sound of the animals eating. Where he is, of course, is the manger.

“He only just saw it. He whose business it is above everything else to have an eye for such things is all but blind in that eye. He who on his best days believes that everything that is most precious anywhere comes from that manger might easily have gone home to bed never knowing that he had himself just been in the manger. The world is the manger. It is only by grace that he happens to see this other part of the miracle.

“Christmas itself is by grace. It could never have survived our own blindness and depredations otherwise.” [from Buechner’s book, Whistling in the Dark.]

There is no manger in John’s Christmas story. Some say, in fact, that there is no Christmas story in John. I say, “Of course there is, but John did not need to speak of mangers because he knew that “the world is the manger.” When we open our eyes, open them wide, we see Christ born in places that we would have once passed with a blind eye and called, “Godforsaken,” we see Christ born in people that we would have once passed with a blind eye and called them, “Godforsaken.”

Christmas happens not because of what we do to prepare for it. Christmas happens because by God’s grace we, the sighted and unsighted, are finally healed of that blind eye.

Merry Christmas!


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