We received a video of our youngest grandchild who just turned 1.
This was her first Christmas in which she was a conscious participant, and she loved every minute of it.
That was until Daddy started taking down the Christmas tree. As she watched him pack away the pretty things, she stared in disbelief, then her whole face puckered and soon she was sobbing with full-throated sadness.
Of course, there are those — almost exclusively adults — who can be found the day after Christmas, taking down lights, dismantling the display and storing everything in its proper place.
It’s not that they dislike Christmas, it’s just that it’s time for things to get back to normal.
I’m in between. On one hand, I’d like the season to linger because it all goes too fast. On the other, repacking and schlepping everything up to the attic is a pain, and I’d like to get it over with.
In both, there are questions I want to answer but am afraid to confront. Really, what was this Christmas thing about? What difference does it make?
Then I heard Auden’s “For the Time Being.” Subtitled, “A Christmas Oratorio,” it is a long poem influenced by the suffering of a second world war in Auden’s short life and his growing attraction to Christianity.
Like many Scripture readers, Auden sees the Bible, not as a history, but as a historical well. Events of the past do not remain in the past, but are drawn into the present, and assure the future.
For Auden, the Incarnation changes everything. As his chorus sings to Simeon, “Now and forever we are not alone.”
We despaired that we were on our own, but now, then, and forever, God is with us.
We felt hopelessly lost, but now we have the hope of understanding and, with it, the hope of redemption.
And the shepherds proclaim, “O here and now our endless journey starts.”
But Auden knows it is not that easy. He confesses that, “As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed / To do more than entertain it as an agreeable / Possibility.”
Still, the poet believes that, in the time being, we can recapture that moment “in the stable when everything was a You and nothing was an It.”
“Time is our choice of How to love and Why,” he concludes.
It’s a life lived, for the time being, between the manger and the cross.