Monday, December 23, 2013

Really Real, and Truly True

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us."
1 John 1:1-2
Without delving into the debates of authorship that constantly surround this book, we can see even in the opening sentence that the author is speaking from personal experience.

And what did he personally experience? "That which was from the beginning."

And in what does this personal experience consist? "Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands."

This is not the language of a mystic.

This is not the language of one whose visions evaporate in the morning light, whose dreams remain firmly in the realm of sleep. This is not a truth that seeks refuge in metaphors and symbolism, which hides in shadows and refuses to be nailed down. This is not a "spiritual" truth that lacks the substance of regular, everyday truth.

This is not the lukewarm spirituality of the "spiritual, but not religious." This not the inconsistency of the "progressive" Christian, who finds joy in questions but has forgotten what they are for. These are not the words of those who claim that truth is fundamentally unknowable. This is not the language of a mystic.

Or more correctly, this is not just the language of a mystic. The topic is, indeed, mystical. "That which was from the beginning." This is the core, the bedrock, the Truth that all self-professed spiritualists and wanderers and "progressives" claim to be seeking (but never finding).

But John is not content to leave it mystical. John is not content to leave it undiscovered, undisturbed, unconfirmed.

John claims to have found it. And not a metaphorical finding, but a true one: A finding confirmed not just by hearing it, but by seeing and even by touching it. 

John says in no uncertain terms, "Here it is. Here is the truth that you have been searching for. We have found it. We have heard it...we have seen it with our eyes... we have touched it with our hands! We have found it."

The truth is no longer mere mysticism. It no longer exists merely "out there," in the realm of the spiritual. It is still there, but now it is also HERE.

That is what Christmas represents. It represents an end to that part of the mystery. It represents an end to the myth that God is fundamentally unknowable, because Jesus came to make Him known. It represents an end to seeking without finding.

It is true what Eliot wrote, that "Here the impossible union/ Of spheres of existence is actual." This is the meeting of the physical and the spiritual, the eternal and the temporal. This is the moment that God entered our reality not as an interloper, not with his finger to inscribe commandments and not as a Spirit to empower, but as a man to walk and live and breath (and die).

Christmas is the moment that Truth was proclaimed not as something high and unknowable, not as something elusive and ethereal, but as something wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

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