Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Our Father" A Reading for Christmas Day

“Our  Father” the title is yet all love.  Man whose days
are more brittle than fine-spun glass may pray to Him
whose power moves the stars through ages: “Our Father.”
Man whose deeds are stained with folly may pray to the
Sovereign Will before whom even angels are not blameless:
“Our Father.”   That such a prayer should have been
given by Jesus Christ and understood by blundering men is a
miracle; for it is the assurance that we, despite the devil’s
wiles and our weak acquiescence, are yet in some hidden
center made in the image of God.  God’s authority is stands
eternal, but is yet for our good.  God’s holiness shines
inexorably as light, but is yet intent upon our joy. Nothing
need dismay us, for we have “Our Father.”  His authority
is not broken, His holiness cannot misconceive our well-being;
and authority and holiness are diastole and systole of His
heart of love.

Why are we born?  Because Love must bring forth children—to
live in Love’s devotion.  Why is the earth filled with beauty and
bounty, and with such singular accord as that between eye
and earth and sun?  Because fatherly concern has built the
house and spread the table.  Why is necessity of toil laid upon
us so that we must daily win our livelihood from our friend-enemy,
the cosmos?  Because children grown under responsible endeavor.
Why have the means of travel compressed the world into one
Neighborhood?  Because Hands are round about us constraining
our family nearness.  Why are we stricken by remorse when we
violate our conscience?  Because the holy love of God thus moves
in us, and His grief thus revealed us that we are made, not for
sinning, but for sainthood.

Why pain?  The very question aches and finds no easy answer.
There is enough pain on earth to make any man despair; or,
rather, there would be enough, if man’s awareness of God were
not stronger in all the generations than his awareness of pain.
Pain of itself is the servant of death, as any tortured face or
racked body can show.  But pain made an oblation to God, a
strange and bitter offering, becomes, beyond any easy
moralizing or pious cant, the servant of life  For Beethoven’s
music grew to thunderous praise when it was wrung from his
deafness, and Tennyson’s poetry became apocalypse when he
dipped his pen in tears.  Why must man suffer the inexplicable
yoke of pain?  There is no logical answer.  We should flee the
man who in brash and shallow mind presumes to peddle a
“simple solution” to the “problem of pain.”  Yet earthly
parents thrust their children into cold water to teach them
to swim, and expose them to the politics of grade school to
encourage their growth.  We are but children.  Therefore we
do not know why we should go through this school of life or
ever travel the dark valley; but those who have prayed “our
Father,” and ventured on the prayer, have not lacked secret
tidings that all is well.  They have been persuaded that pain
and death are also his angels.

(So We Believe So We Pray, The essence of our Christian faith,
by George A. Buttrick, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York,
Nashville, 1951, pages 138-141.)