Friday, December 26, 2008

Mundane Magic

This year I spent all of Christmas trying to help my sister-in-law while she was in labor: supervising the nephews’ opening of presents while her contractions were already nine hours in the making, taking walks and counting the increased contractions after the boys had been shipped to Gram & Grampa’s, walking up and down stairs at the birthing center, and being the delivery-room errand-girl. I feel like after watching a baby boy being born on Christmas Day, I’m supposed to have some inspirational words, maybe imagining doing that in a stable, or maybe musings about the humanity of Christ. I don’t know how Christmasy my thoughts are, but I’ll give it a try.

* * *

My oldest nephew once came and spent the night with me at my cottage when he was three. Among the activities I planned for him was popping popcorn on the stove. I heated the oil, added the kernels, and put on a glass lid that allowed us to watch the process. When small, hard, brown seeds suddenly transformed into large, puffy, white popcorn, my nephew exclaimed,

“Aunty Em, is that magic?”

Slightly amused, I nevertheless maintained my commitment to answer his questions honestly. “No, it’s not magic; it’s just he way God made it.”

But my nephew’s face grew more intense and awestruck at this response. He asked more earnestly, “God made magic in the world?!”

I was tongue-tied for a second, but finally determined the most honest answer to his question. “Yes... yes he did.”

* * *

After all, what else did I witness over the course of the past nine months that clamaxed yesterday when from my sister-in-law’s agony emerged a beautiful child whom no one had seen before (what beauty does not come from agony, after all?), who was made from half pieces of her and half those of my brother? Does our knowledge of some of the gears of that magic trick make it less magical?

Does it with any of the magic God made in the world? Is a rainbow any less magical because we know that light carries in it the entire spectrum of visible color that glass and water may unpackage for us? I know light does, but why should it? With the best of our rationality (another miracle; where did we get that from?), we can eventually learn some of the nuts-and-bolts of how things happen, but the question of why approaches the miraculous.

So yesterday I watched the climax of another daily, regular, run-of-the-mill miracle. And it was on Christmas day, no less, a day we associate with the magic of miracles, and suddenly the question of whether or not I believe in the virgin birth or the physical incarnation of God seems ridiculous. Of course I do. I’m a scholar, after all, and many of my dear friends are scientists. We should know that there are miracles written into the workings of the world; we observe them every day. If these mundane miracles happen by the truck-load every day, of course there may be greater ones.

And the miracle of redeeming the broken places of my soul, the miracle of healing the broken places of the world... perhaps I may be slowly coming to believe in those as well.

God rest ye merry, on this second day of Christmas!

No comments: