Tuesday, December 24, 2019


I am sitting and drinking coffee and pondering this morning. So much to be thankful for this Christmas: beautiful relationships with family and friends, meaningful work, the opportunity to live in the presence of amazing beauty, and so much more. Writing these days is taking up a ton of my time, and I'm excited about that. 

Even so, I find myself stirred at Christmas (and so often), longing to reach out beyond my limits and say things that cannot be said. Some of this stirring borders on grief and loss, both that which is current and that going back many years. Some of it grows out of things I wish were different, in spite of the blessing of my circumstances. The book of Ecclesiastes says that God has set eternity in the human heart. I suppose that's part of it as well. Admiring starlight from a distance seems so inadequate when the heart is yearning for the stars themselves. 

That's the miracle of Christmas in a nutshell, I suppose: In our incompleteness, brokenness, we long to reach out and touch the face of God. Some of that is hubris, but some is set in the human heart by God. Per aspera ad astra. That yearning is given by God himself. In his mercy, he came to us rather than us reaching him. He finds us in our incompleteness and longing. 

This is a little-known poem by J.R.R. Tolkien, written in 1936:


Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.

The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind,
the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.

The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.

Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.

Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.

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