And while it is, as I say, neither the exclusive calling or the exclusive virtue of the Christian (in fact in too many Christians it is all-too-lacking), I cannot help – in these final days of Advent – to think about what God did, in a lonely cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem, when He condescended to enter into the pain and fear, the tumult and whirlwind of the world…when he “set his tent among us,” not merely “dwelling” among us as lofty king, but literally “with” us, with hunger, the capacity for injury and doubt…
God entered in, not with a cacophany of noise and a display of raw power, but as the humblest and most dependent of creatures: a baby, lying in a manger, a place for the feeding of animals. He, who became Food for the World, entered with silence, as though he had put his finger to the quivering mouth of a troubled, sobbing world and said…”ssshhhh…it is alright, I’ll keep you company…”
Of all things, this made me think of an experience at Ikea I had a few months ago. I did a little shopping with the boys, and then we headed to the cafeteria for lunch. As the boys, eager for meatballs, walked a few steps ahead of me, I passed an elderly man. His head (not his face, but his bald skull) had something very wrong with it. It brought to mind a piece of fruit that had gone bad and then been dropped on the floor.
At first I was just shocked. Then I thought, Thank God the boys didn't see that. Then I felt terrible for my reaction. I imagined how hard it must be for that man to live in a world with people like me who don't know how to graciously respond to people with squishy-looking heads.
Still mulling over The Anchoress's words, another time came to mind. Shaun's Grandpa Chick was dying, and we went to see him for the last time. As far as we knew, he could not tell we were there; his eyes were closed, his body was agitated. And I felt ashamed at how uncomfortable I was, of how hard it was for me to be there.
There are so many things I don't want to think about. Orphaned kids; hungry kids; kids whose parents tell them they're stupid. I can hardly stand it. There is so much that is difficult and painful, and ugly in this world, and I often feel that if I don't avoid it, if I know too much about it, then sadness will overwhelm me.
Not Jesus, though. He came to live among us. He sees the diseased bodies. He sees the child soldiers. He sees the mass graves and the underground cities. He sees, and, unlike me, He does not turn away.
His name is Emanuel; He is God with us. Praise God for that. May He grant me the courage to follow His example.