Back in 2010, author Anne Rice wrote a "Christmas confession" in response to comic, actor and filmmaker Ricky Gervais' argument for atheism. With the recent tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut still very much on my mind, I find Anne's thoughts on "what Christmas means for believers" to be a source of comfort, strength and hope. Perhaps you will too.
When I ponder the never-ending journey of Christianity through history, I wonder if it is not the story of the Incarnation that gives the belief system its seemingly eternal power: the single idea that the God who made us is one of us, that God is beyond us yet became human as we are, returning inevitably to Heaven with a body as human as our bodies, even marked in eternity with the wounds of His cruel physical death.
But the genius of the Christmas Crib is that you do not need theology to approach it. You do not need any bloody atonement theory to touch the Christ Child’s outstretched hand. The story is complete there without the horror of the cross. Christ has embraced our helplessness. Christ has enshrined our physicality within the limitless power of the Maker of all things.
In a world in which religions alienate and confuse, in which hierarchies struggle with corruption and believers often turn bitterly and in defeat from the warring orthodoxies of Christ’s followers, the Christ Child merely gazes from His bed of hay at all comers, saying quietly:
You are part of me. I am part of you.
I am always and forever here with you.
If “civilization as we know it” were coming to an end with predictable falling bombs and fleeing populations, if we had to clear out of this house with only a handful of possessions for a post apocalyptic world of ruin and struggle, what would I take with me to preserve for generations yet unborn who might never know the millions of texts we hold to be classics, for whom the pages of the bible might disappear?
I’d take the Christmas creche – the child, his quiet and patient parents, the ragged shepherds with their sheep, the faithful ox and the donkey, the Wise Men in their gilded raiment come to gaze in unquestioning awe.
I’d clutch those little statues to my heart, and hope to leave them somewhere safe where others might inevitably find them – gathered in their ancient configuration – and ponder the mystery of the child’s humble birth amid rich and poor, animal and human, snow and straw.
The creche tells the story I believe in more surely than the printed word. And it always will.
Whatever we face, in the physical and emotional winters of our lives, there is always faith that the God who made us will never abandon us, that he will be born again inside each of us, ever ready to help us save ourselves.
For more of Anne Rice at The Wild Reed, see:
The Inherent Sensuality of Roman Catholicism
Quote of the Day – July 30, 2010
Advent: Renewing Our Connection to the Sacred
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
John Dear on Celebrating the Birth of the Nonviolent Jesus
A Story of Searching and Discovery
Clarity and Hope: A Christmas Reflection
Quote of the Day – December 23, 2010
A Christmas Reflection by James Carroll
Something to Cherish
Image 1: Catholic Gift Store.
Image 2: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images.