Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012.12.25 Merry Christmas For Ever

Many of the words people have used to speak of the Dec. 14th  Newtown CT.  tragedy are negative. They are un- words: unbelievable, unreal, unimaginable, unspeakable, unheard of, unbearable, unmanageable, unholy, ungodly.

I’ve noticed that many of these same words—unbelievable, unimaginable, unheard of, unreal, even ungodly—are also used to describe Christmas, a time when Christians believe by faith that God was born into human flesh as an infant, a God who gives UNconditional love. How ungodly! Not our almighty, divine, alleluia Lord! Unbelievable!

The only way to catch the grace of such an unbearably unreal story is to tell another unbelievable story.......then wait and see.

Once upon a time there lived a king of great power, wealth, and majesty. He ruled over a small kingdom and lived in a palace, full of riches,  jewels and treasures. The king’s castle sat atop the hill overlooking his kingdom, which he ruled with justice and equity.

The king loved to ride about among his citizens in his royal  or on horseback.  All the people cheered and bowed as he rode by.

One day the king caught sight of a beautiful maiden carrying a basket of bread home to her cottage. He watched. He took in her pleasant face and form, unable to avert his gaze. In short, the king became smitten with the young woman, and every day he would ride along the route she took. His heart’s desire was to marry the young woman, love her, and bring her to the castle to live with him—happily ever after.  

How would he make this happen?  He devised many schemes to make his will done.

First, an edict announcing that he would have her in marriage. No one would disobey a king’s orders. But no, the king knew better: love never happens by commandment or control.

He thought then to send his most eloquent messenger in person to deliver the king’s proposal, begging her assent. But no, true love is never indirect, no matter how elegantly it’s presented.

Then the king decided to shower the maiden with gifts and jewels that would please anyone. But no, she would be grateful, but so what?  Love and gratitude aren’t the same, and true love can not be bought or sold.

Ah, the king finally thought.....I’ll go to her house myself. I will appear at her door in all my royal finery and splendor and dazzle her. Then surely she will fall in love with me. The king was sure of this plan, but his Spiritual Director cautioned him: “You will blind her with your glory and make her afraid. Even the most holy awe isn’t love. Think and pray some more, my Lord King. Love is never from a distance, any distance at all.

Quickly, the king thought of a disguise, and just as quickly he unthought it.  She might fall in love, but when he revealed his true identity as king she might get angry at the trick. True love doesn’t wear a mask and doesn’t work by deceit.

Months passed and the king grew weary and was ready to give up. But no, his love for the woman was growing stronger, so strong it made him weep.  What could he do? Immediately, from deep within his longing soul he knew what he must do: He must stop being king.

This path made the king very sad and very scared. To give up all his wealth and privilege and position was terrifying.  To be himself, not an almighty king, was even more terrifying. 

But the most awful part of this plan was its risk. What if the woman didn’t fall in love with him? What if he, after he met her, didn’t like her? 

Still, this is what the king did. He went and lived among her people, worked and played, laughed and cried, came to know her and her people and they all came to know him—up close and personal.

The king’s plan took time and sacrifice but it worked. He and the woman married and lived happily ever after.

Their love grew ever nearer and ever greater, ever nearer and ever greater. 

The End For Ever.

(The above legend is not entirely original to me. Parts of it came from19th century Danish Christian existential philosopher/theologian, Soren Kierkegaard.)