Thursday, December 8, 2011

Twin Towers and a Manger

Out of the wreckage...

Where were you?

I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom holding my beautiful  one-week-old son.  We had only been home from the hospital for a few days, and I was fully intoxicated with the sweet smells of newly-bathed baby, the feel of his slow, steady breathing on my neck, and the slight, warm pressure of eight pounds of perfection curled up and sleeping on my chest.  My two year old was playing contentedly in the corner with his plastic pet shop, a left-over rediscovered toy, compliments of his big sister.  Having been up most of the night, I had traded in my feeble attempt at reading a book for watching Regis and Kelly on the TV.  The air drifting through my cracked window carried with it the hint of the last days of summer.   Life was sweet.  Simple.  Full.

Then it happened.  Within moments, life as we had known it would be changed forever.  It was September 11, 2001, and my dependable, soothing slice of broadcasted Americana was suddenly interrupted with footage of the first plane hitting the tower.  I couldn't believe what I had seen, and I certainly had no idea the lasting impact that the events of that balmy September morning would have on our nation.  On our family.  On the lives of generations to come.  Literally out of the blue, we had all been affected at the most visceral level.

According to a ten-year anniversary article "How 9/11 Changed our Culture" (US News),  our lives were changed in a number of ways including:

~How we speak
~What we fear
~How we keep safe
~What entertains us
~What we read
~Who we admire

We would never look at the world in the same way, and the choices we made going forward would reflect our shift in perspective.

Over 2,000 years ago, the Roman Empire was enjoying a relatively peaceful political climate compliments of the Pax Romana.  The Empire protected and governed its provinces, and the Jewish religion was generally tolerated.  Although there were divisions within the Jewish schools of thought, most had learned to live peacefully under Roman control.  Life was manageable.  They knew what to expect.

Then, one very normal night, the course of history changed forever.  There had been no word from God in over 400 years.  But suddenly, that changed.  At a given point in time, in an unimpressive town, to two ordinary people, the Creator of the world transcended space and time to pierce through the veil between heaven and earth and become one of us.  Literally out of the dark, we would all be affected at the most visceral level.

For those who were present that night and witnessed the divine becoming human, for those who would follow the carpenter's son and listen to his teaching, and for those who would choose to exchange control of their lives in order to serve the unlikely king, the world as they had known it would forever be different.

They would never look at the world the same way, and the choices they would make going forward would reflect their shift in perspective.

A few months ago, we commemorated the tenth anniversary of 9/11.  Footage of the planes was dusted off and replayed across the airwaves, memorial services were held, and we all paused to remember.  As I was recounting that pivotal day's events to my sweet baby boy, now 10 years old, I found that a curious phenomenon had transpired.  On the spectrum that ranges from intense experience all the way to detached, my emotion had shifted a few notches.  I'm sure that if I'd lost a loved one during the tragedy, my reaction would have been different.  But for me, the events that had once singed my soul had been quenched through the last ten years, and they were incrementally closer to becoming memorable dates in an American history book.

Time had lessened the emotional impact.  I had become more detached.  The full impact of 9/11 had been diminished.

Unfortunately, the same can often be said of Christmas.

We mark the calendar, attend the performances, religiously decorate our homes, and pause to remember. 

But I long for more.

~I want to feel deeply... not just remember
~I want to look at the world from His perspective... not my limited viewpoint
~I want to believe that the God of the universe is present, relevant, revolutionary in every aspect of my life

Ten years ago, darkness penetrated and impacted the soul of our country.

Two thousand years ago, Light penetrated our dark world and changed it forever.

Yes, we remind one another that he came as a baby in the manger.  The shepherds followed the star.  The wise men came later, bearing gifts.  

But this Christmas, let us not be satisfied to "just remember."  Rather than settling for an annual observation filled with the good things of sentiment, warm tidings, advent readings and tradition, let them serve to magnify the ultimate things.  Perhaps it would help to remember...

Where were you?  

When the story became real.  When you first believed.  When the Maker of the moon and the Author of the faith penetrated your independent, self-reliant heart and changed it forever.  I was on a stone bench overlooking a small lake.  It was late at night, but I could strain my eyes just enough to see white swans gliding through the water - beacons of light in the midst of the dark.  Because of the baby born so long ago, my life was forever changed. And I never want to forget.


I first heard Jill Phillips sing this three years ago on The Behold the Lamb of God tour, and I still get chills every time I hear it.  Take a few minutes to listen...


Alyssa said...

Julie, I love this comparison. This piece really brought the story to life for me. Thank you.

Laura said...

We must remember. And I ask myself, why? Why is it so easy to forget? Thank you for reminding me.

This song is beautiful. I have only just discovered Andy and Jill this past fall when they provided to music for the writer's retreat at Laity Lodge. What a treat that was.