At this time of year, we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth. But in an effort to make sure we don’t forget the grander story behind the story of Bethlehem, many Christians write and speak about how the manger is only the beginning of Jesus’ entire redemption journey. They see the shadow of a cross over the manger, reminding us of how Jesus was born only to die.
This is true. And yet sometimes I wonder whether in our eagerness not to lose sight of the whole picture, we fail fully to appreciate the beauty of the Incarnation all by itself. True, it’s difficult to escape the shadow of the cross. But just for one moment, can we concentrate solely on the awesome miracle of God in fragile flesh? Can we look upon the face of the Christ child and love him as he is, even before we remember what he will do for us?
For one moment, let us defy the logic of our minds and try unsuccessfully to grasp the truth that this is the Son of Man—the same one who appeared to Daniel in terrifying glory, who wrestled with Jacob, who spoke the stars into being and counts the islands as a very little thing. Let us linger at the manger for a little space of time, straining to catch the silent pleading of the unspoken Word.
T. S. ELIOT, Ash-Wednesday