Come and see…

come and see

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined…”

There is a beauty in Isaiah’s words – but it is also dangerous. For when your eyes are used to darkness, the light can burn. And when darkness is what you have known, the light can be frightening, burning, scalding…

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined…”

I read Frederick Buechner’s words – an essay he wrote called “Come and See” – and there is a terrifying, challenging beauty to the truth that he proclaims.

Listen.

“The prophecy of Isaiah is that into this darkness a great light will shine, and of course the proclamation of the gospel, especially the wild and joy-drunk proclamation of Christmas, is that into this darkness there has already shone a light to dazzle the world with its glory and its terror, for if there is a terror about the darkness because we cannot see, there is also a terror about light because we can see. There is a terror about light because much of what we see in the light about ourselves and our world we would rather not see, would rather not have be seen. The first thing that the angel said to the shepherds was, “Be not afraid,” and he said it with the glory of the Lord shining round about them there in the fields, because there was terror as well as splendor in the light of the glory of the Lord.”

This is the promise of Christmas – that no matter how dark the days, no matter how dark our hearts, the light has come – and when the light has come, we see things as they are. We see ourselves for who we really are – in our beauty and our ugliness, in our joys and our sorrows. All is revealed. And if I’m honest, I am the first to run and hide… I am the one that hides from the light that burns, because it will burn… the light clarifies, and shines, it purifies and it warms, and it lets us see this new thing that is breaking loose. What is it?

“As the Gospels picture it, all heaven broke loose.

The darkness was shattered like glass, and the glory flooded through with the light of a thousand suns. A new star blazed forth where there had never been a star before,  and the air was filled with the bright wings of angels, the night sky came alive with the glittering armies of God, and a great hymn of victory rose up from them – “Glory to God in the highest” – and strange kings arrived out of the East to lay kingly gifts at the feet of this even stranger and more kingly child. This is how, after all the weary centuries of waiting, the light is said finally to have come into the world…”

A scintillating light shines in the darkness – a new light that was not there before – and somehow, the darkness is not strong enough to overcome this light – the beauty and fragility and promise that is one moment a glimmering flicker, and the next super-nova searing itself into the soul.

But what really happened? What did Joseph and Mary and the shepherds actually see? Was there something unexplainable, inexplicable, ineffable? Or was it just another night, like any other night – quiet, dark, lonely, cold? What was different about this child? Why was he special? Him alone, out of the billions born before and after? What was it about him?

“The birth of the child into the darkness of the world made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living life. Ever since the child was born, there have been people who have gotten drunk on him no less than they can get drunk on hard liquor… people who have been grasped by him, caught up into his life, who have found themselves in deep and private ways healed and transformed by their relationships with him… That in this child, in the man he grew up to be, there is the power of God to bring light into our darkness, to make us whole, to give a new kind of life to anybody who turns toward him in faith, even to such as you and me.”

And I see how this life has transformed countless people throughout the centuries: Saul who killed and persecuted in defense of the purity of his faith and people is now Paul, who gives his life for this truth, this person, this light; Oscar Romero who turned from a life of privilege and books and power to defend the common people of El Salvador, and paid with his life, murdered while proclaiming the good news for the poor, and forgiveness for those who were plotting his death; the power to forgive, to redeem, to reconcile, to bring life and wholeness where there should not be any good thing – this is the beauty and the promise that the baby Jesus came to give.

It seems to good to be true. How can it be?

“How do we find out for ourselves whether in this child born so long ago there really is the power to give us a new kind of life in which both suffering and joy are immeasurably deepened, a new kind of life in which little by little we begin to be able to love even our friends, at moments maybe even our enemies, maybe at last even ourselves, even God?”

Buechner answers in beautiful, powerful, poetic language:

Adeste fidelis. That is the only answer I know for people who want to find out whether or not this is true. Come all ye faithful, and all ye who would like to be faithful if only you could, all ye who walk in darkness and hunger for light. Have faith enough, hope enough, despair enough, foolishness enough at least to draw near to see for yourselves…

As far as I know, there is only one way to find out whether that is true, and that is to try it. Pray for him and see if he comes, in ways that only you will recognize. He says to follow him, to walk as he did into the world’s darkness, to throw yourself away as he threw himself away for love of the dark world. And he says that if you follow him, you will end up on some kind of cross, but that beyond your cross and even on your cross you will find your heart’s desire, the peace that passes all understanding… Follow him and see. And if the going gets too tough, you can always back out. Maybe you can always back out.

Adeste fidelis. Come and behold him, born the king of angels. Speak to him or be silent before him. In whatever way seems right to you and at whatever time, come to him with your empty hands. The great promise is that to come to him who was born at Bethlehem is to find coming to birth within ourselves something stronger and braver, gladder and kinder and holier, than ever we knew before or than ever we could have known without him.”

May we come before him, behold him, and remember why it is that we celebrate, what it is that we wait for, and what it means for our lives, our futures, and our loves.

This is why we sing “joy to the world…”

Merry Christmas.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “Come and see…

  1. Rebekah Grace

    I love Frederick Buechner! This was a most excellent post for my heart to read this Christmas morn! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s