I tend to confuse people, and I often sound like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, because of the way that I experience and express conflicting emotions simultaneously–emotions which seem like they should be mutually exclusive (at least with regards to the same situation). Or emotions which seem like they should balance each other out or water the opposite emotion down a bit. For me, however, it doesn’t work that way. I feel deep sorrow and deep joy about the same situation. I have incredible anxiety and incredible peace at the same time.
Tonight, while unsuccessfully looking for a Christmas song which addressed a specific part of the Christmas story (the angel Gabriel part–when he appears to Zechariah and then to Mary), I discovered a carol I had never heard before. Here are the first two lines:
A Communion Hymn for Christmas
Gathered ’round Your table on this holy eve,
Viewing Bethl’hem’s stable we rejoice and grieve.
That’s how I want to spend Christmas eve–gathered with other believers, sharing from the common cup, looking backward and forward, rejoicing and grieving. I don’t know–the only Christmas Eve communion service I’ve found in town is at 11:00 p.m.–a bit late for my little ones. Maybe I’ll invite a few friends over and we’ll have a communion and carol service here. Maybe my children and I will do our own service.
This hymn also reminded me of a post I read over at True Grit. It was about the humble and the extraordinary coming together at the manger. I’m still trying to sort through the feelings and thoughts her post stirred to find words to articulate what I’m learning. In the meantime, though, I saw a connection with my thoughts on conflicting and opposite emotions.
The only thing that “humble” and “extraordinary” seem to have in common is that they deviate from “normal” or “ordinary” (whatever that is). And yet, in a beautiful way, they coexist–indeed are joined–with all of their obvious contrasts, around the birth of baby Jesus. The shepherds and the wise men. The manger. The angels. Royalty. Poverty. Sharp contradictions which should be mutually exclusive, but somehow have become inclusive and unifying.
I grew up hearing people say, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross”. (A point which seems to be missed in homogeneously segregated churches). As a result of Ilona’s post, I’m rejoicing that the ground is amazingly level at the manger as well. I say with Ilona:
For me, this is part of the beauty of Christmas season: the humble and the exceptional both finding the connection point in a quiet place in Bethlehem so many years ago.
John Hobbins, at Ancient Hebrew Poetry has also been adding to my thinking on this topic with a eulogy he recently gave at a friend’s funeral. The post is called “On the distinction between wisdom and intelligence”. I may write more about this topic, if I can figure out how to pull it together in words. In the meantime, I hope you’ll go discover John’s good words for yourself.