My favorite song this time of year sounds nothing like Christmas on the ears, but it sings with unspeakable beauty to the heart. Tom Waits' rendition of Silent Night, complete with accordion, calliope, angel, gypsies, howling dogs, and who knows what else, is perfect - a rough and tumble, broken-voiced growl of heartfelt praise - a hard-edged cacophony that does something more to me than all the choirs with all their idyllic voices combined. It’s the fragmented beauty of that singular silent night, the one that lies at the very heart of the Advent season.
|Image by Marcus Vegas|
It gets dark early now; the days are short, the clouds are sifting snow. Blue-tinged shadows run far across the fields and dawn awakes to a world wrapped white in hoarfrost. There's a chill that seeps into one's bones now, and feet stay cold beneath the blankets. The warmth of a mug or a fire grows more precious with each passing year, and the reasons for straying from the hearth grow, yearly, less compelling.
But far, far away, and twice, at least, as long ago, moonlight flooded down on a dusty little village perched on the hillside of a temperate valley. Three lone palm-trees stood on the horizon beneath a sky of crystal stars, and there was no room in the little hovel of a house on Barley Street, its narrow floors packed with relatives and strangers. No more room at all in a village filled to bursting. A young girl, belly big with child, slept restlessly in the cold stableyard, seeking warmth amid the animals.
|Image by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato|
Theotokos they call her, Bearer of God.
The young girl blessed among women.
The one who found favor with God,
Who, with humility, carried Christ within herself.
“But what if,” you wonder, as you warm your slippered feet beside the fire, “what if it wasn't just little Mary, sleeping that silent night between her man and a mule, between heaven and earth, belly full of God? What if you walked about (from Nazareth to Bethlehem, from 4th Street down to Main) with Christ somehow in you, pregnant with good deeds, expectant of miracle? What if you bore within yourself the Son of God? What if God dwelled inside of you?
You stop wondering; the words have struck you square, and meekly you lift your eyes and speak softly to the heavens, "Behold, the servant of the Lord; may it be unto me according to thy word."
|Image by Carl Jones|
And stepping out into the snowy fields scratched with blue shadows, where the fox goes stalking and the fieldmouse hiding, suddenly there is glory streaming down from heaven, and someone comes shining, announcing good tidings of great joy. The whole sky is lit up with them like white-flamed stars. The fox goes still, the mouse squints up at bright splendor. The host of heaven sings, scratchy and hard-edged and cacophonous and beautiful.
"Go back inside," they say to you, "by the hearth you shall see him, clothed in flesh and blood, a kind of second incarnation." Emmanuel, they call him; Theotokos, their word for you.
Advent has come. We await the coming of Christ our Savior. We await the angels singing in the skies, their rough and tumble song of heartfelt praise. Advent has come, and with eager anticipation we await the Lord, and yet we also know, already he is among us, within us, and all round about.
Sebastian Faust is an avowed heretic, armchair theologian, and a self-styled canary in the coal mine of pop culture. He takes life by the reins, bulls by the horns, and tigers by the tail, all while living in Nashville. You can't follow Sebastian on Twitter because he doesn't understand technology.
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