“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
In contemplating the story of Christmas, I am still working around the edges. The Child's birth itself—complete with all the usual characters, all the memorized words—seems so over-told, so inscribed in our awareness that it has lost it's ability to surprise. But I still find meaning in the symbols that are overlooked. Take the stable, for instance. Luke tells us only this, “...she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” In those days in Judea, animals were mostly kept in caves in cold weather, and Israel, in December/January, is pretty cold, especially at night. So, most likely, the manger was in a cave.
If you've ever been in a cave, one without electric lights, you know just how dark they are—the kind of darkness we never see in our lit up world. There is no light at all, even moonlight, or starlight. Regardless of how many people are with you, the darkness is as close as your breath, as your heartbeat, as deep as total blindness. You literally cannot see your own hand in front of your face. If one person strikes a match, or today, clicks on a cell phone, the light is enormous. It illuminates everything and everyone. In that moment, every person lets go a collective sigh, as they exhale the breath they've been holding. We are not creatures who are comfortable with complete darkness.
It is against this kind of darkness that the Light is born, in the story of Jesus' birth, in the Winter Solstice that preceded it, and inside our own hearts and minds. The story of Christmas is only understood in its entirety when we grasp the darkness as well as the Light. Our own story is exactly the same.
In the Spirit,