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Heaven is Here: Down is Up, Up is Down

December 25, 2009
Christmas is when we celebrate the
unexpected; it is the festival of surprise.

This is the night when shepherds wake to the
songs of angels; when the Earth has a star
for a satellite; when wise men go on a fool’s
errand, bringing gifts to a Prince they have
not seen, in a country they do not know.

This is the night when one small donkey bears
on its back the weight of the world’s desire,
and an ox plays host to the Lord of heaven.

This is the night when we are told to seek our
King, not in a palace but in a stable.

Although we have stood here, year after year,
as our parents before us, the wonder has not
faded, nor will it ever fade; the wonder of
that moment when we push open the little
door, and enter, and entering find in the
arms of a Mother, who is a Virgin, a Baby
Who is a God.

Chesterton has said it for all of us: the only
way to view Christmas properly is to stand
on one’s head.

Was there ever a house more topsy-turvy
than the House of Christmas, the cave where
Christ was born?

For here, suddenly, in the very heart of Earth,
is Heaven; down is up and up is down, the
angels and the stars look down on God who
made them and God looks up at the things God
made.

There is no room in an inn for the One who made
room, and to spare, for the Milky Way; and
where God is homeless, everyone is at home.

We were promised a Savior, but we never
dreamed that God herself would come
to save us.

We knew that She loved us, but we never
dared to think that She loved us so much as to
become like us.

But that is the way God gives. Her gifts are
never quite what we expect, but always
something better than we hoped for.

We can only dream of things too good to be
true; God has a habit of giving things too
good to be false.

That is why our faith is a faith in the
unexpected, a religion of surprise.
Now more than ever, living in times so
troubled, facing a future so uncertain, we
need such faith. We need it for ourselves, and
we need it to give to others.

We must remind the world that if Christmas
comes in the depth of winter, it is that there
may be an Easter in the spring.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
-Horacio de la Costa, SJ (with gendered-language edits from me)
Original text is here.
I love this poem because it expresses the scandal of Christmas, and in many ways, links it to what so many of us are seeking every day: a new world order, where up is down and down is up. To know that this dream is shared, encouraged, and initiated by God’s love on Christmas is a real encouragement to me, and hopefully, to many of you as well. Merry Christmas from Battambang!

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