December 17, 2008

Silent Night

2008 1535 page31 capT’S QUIET TONIGHT. EVERYONE HAS GONE TO BED, AND I SIT HERE attempting to write an article about Christmas. I’m trying to figure out why this is so difficult to write. I could churn out 500 words about joy, fun, gifts, giving, and toss in some wonderfully warm little anecdotes from personal experience that will fill you with warm, cozy feelings.
Perhaps it is precisely because it is so easy to manufacture that I find it difficult to write something “real.” That is my challenge this past year: realness.
With all the manufactured reality in the media, with all the handlers who try their professional best to present “reality” in a preproduced way, with all the stories that are massaged to bring the strongest emotion, it is difficult to understand the truth.
And perhaps because of this misunderstanding of truth, this anchoring in the illusion, I am chained and restless when I should be experiencing the promised freedom that comes from truth.
2008 1535 page31Here in a valley so far from my home, during this silent night, I punch out a binary code that is represented as text on a temporary screen. It reminds me of myself, my life. I am one thing representing something that doesn’t quite make much sense but is represented so clear to those around me. I am the text of the code of me: you see what I display but not really what I am.
Therein, to me, is what is so exquisite about Christmas. Christ came not to polish our image, but to clear the illusion, tear down the facade, and release us from ourselves. The celebration isn’t about a baby in the manger, but about the coming of the One who will slay death, be resurrected, and demonstrate to us the meaning of living life and living it to the fullest: to be who we really are. Not the pastor because of the position, the Christian because of the community, or the worker because of the work.
Christ was born to set us free. Free from the chains we have wrapped around us: the position, the doom-and-gloom prophecies, the communities, the addictions, the lists that wrap around our lives as we grow older. And in its reptilian embrace, these forced modes of behavior choke the joy that should be a part of living in the hope of Christ’s coming.
Perhaps that is why the church at the time of Christ missed out on the birth. They were looking for something that fit an image of their own making and missed out on the beauty of the birth—the promise of life beyond the weight of manufactured piety.
And for those who were looking and those who were sincere in their church, it was a night that came alive.
I’m sitting here wondering where these words came from before reality hits me with the Source of all things holy.
The night is never silent. The valleys are not that far from home. And somewhere, very near, are angels singing. Reminding me that all is well with the world because God can free me from me. 

Falvo Fowler works as an editor and an executive producer for the General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department.