a christmas story

From the essay, The Annunciation, tucked humbly among the pages of many more like it in the collection, The Magnificent Defeat, by Frederick Buechner, an author who continually articulates the thoughts and intents of my heart – a place only Christ is supposed to know so well – with words I’ve never been able to assemble in similar fashion:

. . . The world waits.  History waits and labors.  Something draws near, and we love its being far away there rather than here, among ourselves.  Except, of course, that it is here among us too and within us as we wait for the story to begin, the story whose end we already know and yearn to know again and wish we did not know; the story whose meaning may be our meaning, as we wait for the child to be born.

For this is what Gabriel comes to announce, and Mary stands there as still as life in her blue mantle with her hands folded on her lap, and the terrible salutation is caught like a bird’s wing in the golden net of the air – Ave Maria gratia plena.  Dominicus tecum.  And then she hears him say, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name . . . ”  But she knows his name before Gabriel says it, just as we also know his name, because the child who is going to be born is our child as he is her child.

He is that which all the world’s history and all of our own inner histories have been laboring to bring forth.  And it will be no ordinary birth but a virgin birth because the birth of righteousness and love in this stern world is always a virgin birth.  It is never men nor the nations of men nor all the power and wisdom of men that bring it forth but always God, and that is why the angel says, “The child to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Here at the end let me tell a story which seems to me to be a kind of parable of the lives of all of us.  It is a peculiarly twentieth-century story, and it is almost too awful to tell:  about a boy of twelve or thirteen who, in a fit of crazy anger and depression, got hold of a gun somewhere and fired it at his father, who died not right away but soon afterward.  When the authorities asked the boy why he had done it, he said that it was because he could not stand his father, because his father demanded too much of him, because he was always after him, because he hated his father.  And then later on, after he had been placed in a house of detention somewhere, a guard was walking down the corridor late one night when he heard sounds from the boy’s room, and he stopped to listen.  The words that he heard the boy sobbing out in the dark were, “I want my father, I want my father.”

Our father.  We have killed him, and we will kill him again, and our world will kill him.  And yet he is there.  It is he who listens at the door.  It is he who is coming.  It is our father who is about to be born.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.

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