(traditional Italian Christmas cake)
Fredrick Buechner on Christmas…
It seems to me one of the miracles of the Christian faith is that the feast of Christmas survives what we have done to it — all the hoopla, clap-trap, commercialism and all the rest of it that I don’t even need to go into because everybody knows what it is. Yet, somehow it does survive. This extraordinary moment when the whole year slows down and you point to this unimaginable event where God somehow became made flesh. It is so cataclysmic; it is so extraordinary; we try to make it habitable; we try to make it cosy; we make crèches and we sing Christmas carols. At best, it can be touching and real. At its worst it can be cheap and banal. What often occurs to me about Christmas is that if it is really true, if the word really became flesh, if the mystery behind all that really took the form of a human life, this vulnerable, tiny human life whose skull you could have crushed with one hand, then there must have been extraordinary anguish and intergalactic struggle to have this extraordinary thing come to pass. It wasn’t an easy thing to happen. There is a kind of terror about Christmas, a kind of holiness and awesomeness about Christmas that we tend to forget. The resurrection and the life came down and tasted the bitterness of death.
One Christmas Eve, exhausted, about to go to bed having put all the presents under the tree, I remembered that our neighbour had asked us to feed his sheep every day he was gone. The snow was falling — this was in Vermont – my brother and I went down the hill to feed the sheep. We went into the barn and we got the bales of hay. We took them out into the sheep shed, cut the string, turned on the forty-watt bulb and began scattering the hay. The sheep came bumbling up, getting close to it. With the smell of the hay, the smell of the sheep and the snow coming down, all of a sudden I realized where I was. I was in the manger and I almost missed it.
I was in this holy place and I might not even have seen it. I happened to see it. It seems to me that in a way, you could say that the world itself is a manger where God is continually being born into our lives, into the things that happen to us. Most of the time, if you are like me, you are looking the other way.