Time after Time, He Comes again
Some random thoughts for the Christmas season:
I'm writing this on a new computer. I recall our first: a Leading Edge IBM compatible that had an operating system you loaded by inserting two floppy discs into the computer each time you turned the machine on. In contrast, the one on which I'm writing has reached a modest level of Isaac Isamov's Law of Machines: "No machine shall have any moving parts." While this computer has some moving parts: the keyboard keys and the hinges on the lid (it's a laptop), it has no internal moving parts. It is completely solid state: including the hard drive. Wow! Progress is amazing.
I grew up in a house with no plumbing, a well on the back porch, and heated by two coal stoves: one in the dining room, and one in the living room. We seldom used the living room during my early childhood, keeping only the dining room and kitchen warm. At night in the winter, we simply piled on more quilts.
We had no car, grew our own vegetables and fruit, slaughtered our own meat and smoked it to preserve it. Later, we would have a chest freezer to keep vegetables and meats in a less labor-intensive fashion. We made our own laundry soap, washed weekly with two washtubs and a washpot for heating water. It was primitive by today's standards: only a single rotary phone in the dining room, and a radio in the living room on which we listened to a few favorite programs. I walked to school, rode the streetcar for longer distances, and had hundreds of surrounding acres of woods in which to play.
As I near my 68th Christmas, I can look back to that time and understand its simplicity compared to the complex world of today's children. Cell phones, television, computers...it is a time so different that it is a quantum leap from the world of just a few generations ago: much less the world of a hundred years ago.
I find it interesting that, in the midst of all this complexity, some simple things still give me pleasure: family, a good book, interesting and challenging issues from our congregation which stretch my mind daily. With all this complexity, some simple things are still satisfying.
At the heart of this season is a simple thing: the birth of a child. Despite the age in which we live, the birth of Jesus is still as riveting as it must have been 2000 years ago. All the knowledge, innovation, and invention pale when held against the birth of a tiny child two thousand years ago in a place and time so alien and simplistic that we can scarcely imagine it.
Yet, that birth has continued to touch the fabric of human hearts and human civilization through all these two thousand years. All other events of history are diminished when compared to the impact this child has had on all humankind and human history.
So, in this time of compelxity and challenge, it is appropriate for us to once again cast off the trappings of modernity, don the clothes of shepherds and wise men and angels, and make our way to a tiny town called Bethlehem. We go there in our hearts. We worship there with myriads of souls from all ages. We do so because, despite all the distance of time and place, it is in that manger that all the hopes and dreams of The Lord God lie: hopes and dreams that include me, and you, and our children's children in a time yet unimagined. This then, is the stuff of miracles: a child whose name is Jesus.
December 6th, 2010