Wednesday, December 10, 2014

CAROL : i wonder as i wander

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This is the first carol I consciously chose for myself.  

Growing up, my favorite thing to do at Christmastime was to put on the big, rings-of-Saturn, shimmery black record of the Tabernacle Choir Christmas carols, setting the weighted needle down precisely and gently and then lying down beneath the Christmas tree and looking up through fragrant branches full of light to see a score of tiny shiny-eyed Emma J's reflected back at me in the dangling red and gold baubles. 

I loved the joyous and happy songs of Christmas, but when I was in middle school and bought a Christmas album at my neighbors' garage sale and first heard Barbra Streisand sing this melancholy song my heart leapt from me.  It was summertime.  It didn't matter.  This song caught something important to me about Christmas.

I do wonder how God chose to come the way He came?  He must have wanted the messy, more difficult route.  He certainly seems to prefer that way over and over.  He could have done things differently -- more tidily, with less slippage and less peril.  Less heartbreak and heroism, less hatred, less choice.

So there must be some salutary virtue in all these hills and headwinds.  Or maybe it's the breakdowns and the banding together that matter more to Him than any arrival or achievement.

This carol asks of me the same silent and receptive contemplation that I heard later in Walt Whitman's poem:

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Reverence is where true religion roots into us.  Not in argument and acrimony.  Not in crusades and controversy.  But, here, in stillness wondering beneath the stars, wandering and looking up to the light.

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