Even for the many who have resigned themselves to the trials of this life, it rarely unfolds on a happy medium between heaven and hell, but rather much closer to hell, and very far from heaven. To become a man is to go through hell. And in order for us to nevertheless embark on that journey and affirm its worth, the purpose for undertaking it must be believable. Does anybody really need me? Will I really be used? What about that fact that countless people today are never really used or needed, but merely belong to the faceless crowd? The wish never to have been born (since I would never leave a hole or be missed if I weren’t there) hovers dangerously close to many.
But then, there’s nothing romantic about the Christmas story either. If anything, it offers a slice of a brutal world in which a child is born on the street, so to speak, with next to nothing in the way of rights and security, and not even so much as a home. He whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas said, even as a grown man, “I have nothing. I am nowhere at home. Even at night, I have no place to rest or lay my head.”
Not just life in general, but we humans ourselves contribute to the world’s gloom, like dark shadows on a dark landscape. We awake precious little confidence. But now this man from Nazareth comes to us and invites us to mirror God’s image, and shows us how. He says: you too can become light, as God is light. Because what is all around you is not hell, but rather a world waiting to be filled with hope and faith. This world is your home as surely as the God who created and wrought it is Love. You may not believe it, but you can love this world. It is a place of God. It has a purpose. Its beauty is not a delusion. You can lead a meaningful life in it.
Once we perceive these truths, we will see the world with new eyes. Despite everything we see from day to day, it will reveal itself as a place where peace is possible, even through us. Our path through life will then turn from a journey over strange, dark terrain into one that passes through the light that is God. And we ourselves will be made fit to live in the light. When we open our eyes we will see it, and see our way forward.
Whatever happens on this earth happens in connection with the invisible – with the world of the Spirit. This world transcends all things, it crosses all borders. It is into this great, boundless sphere that your path leads. Grasp as much of this as you can (you will never fully comprehend it) and then let whatever you have understood be felt around you. Because once you have seen the light of God, peace can lodge in your heart and put down roots in your life. And even if you are not able to explain it, peace can then go out from you.
Others may ask: How can you be certain that there is reason to call this life and this earth good? There is no other answer than the coming down of God’s goodness, which offers us a pattern and model for our own lives. When you see others stuck in the bottomlands of their own poverty, fear, or distress, climb down to dwell with them there. In this way the image of the God who came down can become their image as well as yours – and the world a more welcoming place.
Translated from Jörg Zink, Türen zum Fest. Verlag am Eschbach, 2010. Used with permission.
Stained glass images by Valentin Feuerstein, 1917-1999. Copyright 2010 Verlag am Eschbach. Used with permission.