Wineskins Archive

January 8, 2014

AfterGlow: The Irrational Season (Nov 1992)

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Phillip Morrison
November, 1992

7For a long time I have been fascinated by Madeleine L’Engle’s little verse:

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild,
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.

There isn’t much about the birth of Jesus that fits into neat, rational categories. For Mary to have laughed at the very thought of giving birth to the Savior would be perfectly understandable. A virgin birth, a king born in a stable, God come to earth to live as a man, glorious announcement by heavenly hosts – none of it seems to make sense.

Not until I remember Robert McAfee Brown’s description of Jesus as “the center of sanity in a crazy world.” What doesn’t make much sense at the beginning ultimately becomes the only thing that does make sense.

The teachers of the law in Jerusalem were not prepared fora 12-year-old boy to astound them with his wisdom. And every generation since – including ours – has shared their astonishment. His life was full of incredible deeds, and teachings that conflicted with the conventional wisdom.

Least of all did his death make sense. At the height of his popularity, with the full power of God at his command, he willingly laid down his life.

Helmut Thielicke pointed out that in Jesus’ crib and cross we have the most extreme points in a life. We all experience birth and death, but he alone went from the cradle to the cross.

Thielicke also wrestled with the irrationality of Jesus’ story: “A Son of God who defends his title with the arguments that he is the brother of even the poorest and the guilty and takes their burden upon himself: this is a fact one can only note, and shake one’s head in unbelief – or one must worship and adore. There is no other alternative. I must worship.

“That’s why I celebrate Christmas.”

Henry Van Dyke’s classic essay raises a series of provocative questions and reaches a similar conclusion: “Are you willing to forget what you have done for others, and remember what others have done for you; … to see that your fellow men are just as real as you are, and try to look beyond their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; … to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness? Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of the little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; … to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, and keep the gate open – are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.”

Again this year, I can … I will … I must celebrate Christmas.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison


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