When I recently bought my first pair of reading glasses, I hoped to quietly slip into middle age without fanfare, but it was not to be. For some reason the check out guy couldn’t scan the glasses and told me to carry them out with the receipt in case anyone questioned me. So on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, serenaded by alarms and accusing stares, I walked out carrying the symbol of my rapidly aging body high above my head for all to see.
In all seriousness, the glasses were long overdue. I’ve been in denial for years. It’s amazing how long pride can prevent you from finding simple solutions to problems. Back home, it was like scales were removed from my eyes. You wouldn’t believe the functions they include on computer keyboards these days. Now that I can actually see them, I’ve discovered that there are single buttons to jump up and down whole pages on a word document.
When you see something so clearly, you inevitably wonder why it took so long to find the solution. It’s the same with so many things in life. Once you see reality clearly, you can’t believe it took you so long to see it. Suddenly everything becomes clear. When you fall in love, find your passion, realize an injustice, see nature’s beauty, it’s like scales fall off your eyes and everything becomes clear.
Look carefully at the image above. What do you see? A tree with a maze of branches? Or a baby curled in a fetal position? I hope you can see the baby even though I’ve cropped the image. Once you see it, you wonder how it took you so long and every time you look at it, you see the baby immediately.
Where do you look for miracles? The Christmas miracle is NOT so much that a baby was born in unusual circumstances 2000 years ago. Every new born baby is a miracle. The miracle is that once you see the world as a place full of possibility, hope turns up even in the most surprising places. Once you see the birth of hope in your own life, you can’t believe it took you so long to find it. It’s EVERYWHERE, inside and out.
There are two ways to think of miracles and Christmas; as if the miracles happened two thousand years ago, or as if the Christmas story points to miracles that happen ALL the time, all around you, if you have the inner clarity of vision to see it.
Think of the Christmas star. The true miracle is not that an unexplained star traveled across the sky to hover above the birthplace of Jesus. The miracle is to look into the night sky today and take in the immensity of the universe and the tiny speck of star dust that we are in the grand scheme of things. When you take in the full grandeur of the universe, the traditional interpretation of the Christmas story as the birth of a savior for a select group of earth’s people falls light a shooting star.
One star, Pollux (Castor’s twin), is 182 trillion miles away from earth, and that’s still in our galaxy. It’s hard to even comprehend that number. If you think of 1 trillion in time, 1 trillion seconds = 32,000 years (30,000 years before the birth of Jesus!) 182 trillion seconds is 5.8 million years. 5.8 million years ago, our ancestors still had opposable big toes and were just starting to walk upright.
So much for Pollux. The largest star yet discovered is Canis Majoris. It is approximately 28800000000000000 miles from earth, if you can get your head around that number. And Canis Majoris is ginormous. You could fit earth inside Canis Majoris so many times it would equate to covering the whole state of Texas with golf balls, 22 inches deep.
I don’t need to go on. You get the point. How does this relate to Christmas? Once you realize the size of the universe, the scope of evolution and the relative tininess of earth, the idea that the God who created ALL of the universe would have some special plan focused on earth alone becomes a little self indulgent. In relation to the size of the earth, we would be lucky to have God’s third cousin stop by for a visit, let alone the only son of God.
And YET, in the midst of this mostly mysterious universe the fact that an individual like you or me can come to self consciousness is a miracle of the highest order. That you can come to realize that your body is made of the same stuff as Pollux and Canis Majoris is an incredible wonder. That you could discover the presence of peace, hope born within you, God within by any name, is the ultimate Christmas miracle. And it’s not confined to Christians. It’s a miracle of human awakening, tied to the evolution of the cosmos itself, and it’s as close as your own breath.
Are you having trouble seeing this peace and potential within, like the baby in the optical illusion? Stop trying. It’s like looking for your glasses. You can’t see them because you don’t have your glasses on. You can’t find peace as if it’s outside of you. You are looking without the benefit of the very thing that will get you there. It’s as if the glasses are lost on the top of your head. Just tilt your head to the sky, take in the night sky, feel your place in the miracle of it all, let your head lower back to the reality in front of you and peace will fall into place, like glasses falling gently back into position. Let peace unfold effortlessly in your life this Christmas.
In the next piece, I address the so called war on Christmas. Whether it’s the wars that wage within, battles in relationships or between nations, let peace be your guiding vision this Christmas. As Calvin Coolidge said,
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.