Keeping Watch on Christmas Eve

 

Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve 2012

by Marjorie George

 

mind the gap for webOn the trains and subways in London, there is a phrase that is written at the threshold of every doorway: “Mind the gap.” It refers to the space between the train step and the adjacent landing. Londoners seem to be acutely aware of the gap; the human-less female voice that announces each stop always adds, cheerfully, “Mind the gap!” A favorite take-home of tourists has become t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase.

But in a spiritual formation class that I was in at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin recently, those words took a new meaning for us.  As we sat around classroom tables in deep discussions on the mysteries of God, every once in a while someone would say, “Mind the gap.” It came to signify to us the gap that exists between God’s majesty and our feeble attempts at understanding it.  It served to remind us that we will never have all the answers, that no matter how many books we read and how many papers we write, our understanding will never be complete.

Minding the gap was our recognition that our stories are not finished, that we are still on the journey. None of us, we agreed, can measure the distance between what our lives are today and what they might be some day.   

Often, too often for our comfort level, this gap is one of perplexity, of our mournful crying, “Why, God, why?” Why did this happen? Why can’t this be resolved? When will this pain cease? Where is the healing we so desperately seek?  

It would be too much to bear were it not for the Child of Bethlehem.  We would not be able to endure the unknowing did we not know that we don’t stand in this gap alone.

Watching and waiting for the birth, accepting the gift that the child is to us, means acknowledging our need of him.  It means humbly confessing that we can’t make our way without him, that the chasm between God’s goodness and our human failings is too deep and too wide for us to overcome on our own. In the gap, we claim our dependence on him.

The gift that we lay at the manger is our willingness to believe that in this child, the incarnate God is entering into our lives.  The Mighty One has put on flesh and will walk among us. He, too, will learn about human love and hate, trust and disappointment, success and adversity. His way will not be easy, and his path will not be smooth. He will even, in one horrific moment, ask where God is. He will be mindful of the gap.

In the manger lies the one who is the consolation of heaven and earth.  In him our worlds touch for a brief moment; the distance between God and man is no more.  

Because of Christmas, we need not fear or fill the gaps between our knowing and our unknowing; God in Christ comes to us there. 

Marjorie George is the editor of ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

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