Tuesday, November 29, 2005
God's Historical Revisionism
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ....
(Christina Rossetti, music by Gustav Holst)
When I was younger, I wondered why we celebrate Christ's coming in the bleak mid-winter, when anybody who reads the Scriptures carefully figures that He really was born sometime in the spring. Sometime at any rate which was warm enough for shepherds to be keeping flocks out on the hills. And then I began to reflect upon what else was going on in the world, when the Church began to observe Christmas.
Christians found themselves working towards a new culture in the midst of their pagan kingdoms. Kingdoms and cultures which every mid-winter held religious festivals honoring the sun as a god. Winter was then a time of real fear. Would the days continue to grow shorter? Would light and warmth never return? Would the Sun-God abandon them to darkness and death? The winter solstice observances were attempts to appease the Sun-God, to entice him to return. It was an attempt to ensure that the cycle of seasons would continue. The best that could be hoped was that the wheel would turn once more.
The Christian celebration of Christmas at this time rather than at some other was a bold, immediate, emotionally-satisfying declaration that the power of darkness has been broken forever. Christ, the Light of the world, has come and will come again. This is no thin hope that the wheel might grind on. The hopeless treadmill of time has been given an end and a purpose. History is no longer a meaningless succession of events and interchangeable characters. Christ is the Lord of Years, the Potentate of Time.
He is re-writing history, giving it His meaning. He is re-writing my history. In the bleak mid-winter.