What In Christmas Season Grows: On the Days Leading Up to the Nativity of the Lord
In Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, we find the following stanza: "At Christmas I no more desire a rose / Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth; / But like of each thing that in season grows" (I, 105). Today, of course, we can order roses for Christmas from the local florist. He will get them from a hot-house or flown in from some distant spot where they are in bloom. And if we run ski slopes during May, we can manufacture our snow when late spring storms fail to fall on slopes in Colorado or the Alps. Yet, Shakespeare is right; we know things better if we wait till their time.Please read his marvelous essay!
My own childhood memories of the days leading up to Christmas were ones of waiting and expectancy. These are both great categories of finite being. Without the waiting, the reality of Christmas is not nearly so wondrous. Some things we cannot have unless we wait for them to be what they are. I sometimes suspect that this unwillingness to wait is the besetting sin of modern times. It has something to do with the replacing of a hope rooted in the divine by a hope transferred into a human project, something discussed in detail in Pope Benedict's latest encyclical.
Often I think that purely "human" history--a history conceived as depending on no transcendent order--means letting us human beings conjure up for ourselves the best way of live. Then, once we have produced what we think we want, we find out not only that we do not want it, but that it is not worth having once we get it. God has a purpose in letting us attempt to make our own world. He long ago discovered that, if free beings like ourselves are warned about some route not to travel, the first thing we know is that they are busy traveling on it as if that is the only way to go. I have often thought that God does not bother to prove us wrong. He lets us do it ourselves. We only have to look with cold eyes at the results of our own confabulations...