Today, snow is falling outside and I’m tucked away indoors, drinking a cup of hot black coffee. The family budget is tight, but somehow we always find we have more than enough to give, to eat, to celebrate. I want to stretch out time, but the days are shorter than ever. The materialism of our culture gets brighter and shines its garish light on the poverty that lives here too.
At Christmastime, the contrasts of life butt up against each other in a messy kind of coexistence. Happiness seems happier and sadness weighs heavier, sometimes in the same moment. I’m startled when I find myself being kind toward a stranger and short-tempered with the people I love the most. I binge on quaint, cliched, happy-ending movies that I never watch the other eleven months of the year. I can get wonderfully lost in my amazement of God, coming to earth not just as a human, but as a vulnerable baby. And I can get unnecessarily lost in my own irritability while waiting in a customer service line.
I think this is why Christmastime is one of my favorite seasons. I’m reminded that my life is but dust. And my life is also divine. The truth of this is in my face, and it drives me closer to God.
John Mark McMillan is the lyricist behind the stunning song “How He Loves.” (“He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.”) John’s original lyrics, recorded by Kim Walker-Smith, say, “Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” Apparently some people are uncomfortable with this image. The David Crowder Band changed the words: “Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss.” At my church, the worship leaders changed it yet again: “Heaven meets earth like a passionate kiss.”
A few years ago John wrote on his blog about the lyric changes. I love what he said about his original choice: “The idea behind the lyric is that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth converge in a way that is both beautiful and awkwardly messy.”
Yeah, this truth can be uncomfortable. But it resonates deep within my heart, and never more than at Christmastime, when I wish there were nothing more sloppy and wet in my life than the occasional snowfall. Then I wonder: if the meeting of heaven and earth were less sloppy, would we notice it at all? Maybe we would forget God’s divinity, and our own.
If Jesus had been born in a palace, would the shepherds have seen him?
If God had never been born as a man bearing our image, would we know that we messy humans also bear the image of God? And not only his image, but his glory?
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) And before his death Jesus said in a prayer for all who believe in him: “I have given them the glory that you gave me…” (John 17:22).
Right now it’s an imperfect glory, a messy glory. Divine dust swirling around the world like sometimes-beautiful snow that catches God’s light. Which makes it all the more eye-catching, all the more lovely. This Christmas, may God’s glory in you catch the heavenly light that shines down on your earthly walk.