The god in the cave as the living bread of heaven and the lamb of God
Bethlehem is emphatically a place where extremes meet.– G. K. Chesterton, The God in the Cave, The Everlasting Man, 1925
Advent is almost over and Christmas Eve is tomorrow! With all the extremes that have occurred in our lives of late, what have you been brought to know about the Christ during this time? How is Christmas – the symbolic sending of the Christ into the world – going to change you this year? With all our losses, as painful as they have been, have we allowed what the good God means to come of it, the good that St. Paul talks about?
But whatever was gain to me I count as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.…Philippians 3:8
Why does God seem to want us to lose the things we have come to love, even to need? Because as painful as it is to admit, there is nothing that we have that we did not receive from Him. And so He is what causes all to be – even our own lives. He condescended to live this experience with us, to face the losses with us and to show us that He is the only gain we have and we need. He creates all things. He restores all things. He makes all things new! When He comes again, there will be a new restored earth like the heavens all ready restored in which there will be no pain, nor crying, not death anymore!
And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.Revelation 21:3-4
In the film, The Nativity Story, an old Shepherd relates to Mary that his father once told him that we are each given a gift. Mary then asks him what his gift was. “Nothing“, the Shepherd answer, “Nothing except the hope of waiting for one.” Later after Jesus is born and the Shepherd comes along with the other shepherds watching that night to the stable where Jesus is laying in the manger and Mary says to him: “He is for all mankind. We are each given a gift.”
Are you feeling a bit down because there are fewer gifts under the tree or maybe none? Don’t be. We have all been waiting as “lonely exiles” for the one gift from God. We have all been given that gift. And that is all we need and what we need most – the greatest of all gifts – our Savior! As Chesterton reminds us, the hands that made the sun and the stars, that then were too small to reach the heads of the cattle, nevertheless reached out for you and me.
“A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded. It is at least like a jest in this; that it is something which the scientific critic cannot see. He laboriously explains the difficulty which we have always defiantly and almost derisively exaggerated; and mildly condemns as improbable something that we have almost madly exalted as incredible; as something that would be much too good to be true, except that it is true. When that contrast between the cosmic creation and the little local infancy has been repeated, reiterated, underlined, emphasized, exulted in, sung, shouted, roared, not to say howled, in a hundred thousand hymns, carols, rhymes, rituals pictures, poems, and popular sermons, it may be suggested that we hardly need a higher critic to draw our attention to something a little odd about it; especially one of the sort that seems to take a long time to see a joke, even his own joke. But about this contrast and combination of ideas one thing may be said here, because it is relevant to the whole thesis of this book. The sort of modern critic of whom I speak is generally much impressed with the importance of education in life and the importance of psychology in education. That sort of man is never tired of telling us that first impressions fix character by the law of causation; and he will become quite nervous if a child’s visual sense is poisoned by the wrong colors on a golliwog or his nervous system prematurely shaken by a cacophonous rattle. Yet he will think us very narrow-minded, if we say that this is exactly why there really is a difference between being brought up as a Christian and being brought up as a Jew or a Moslem or an atheist. T he difference is that every Catholic child has learned from pictures, and even every Protestant child from stones, this incredible combination of contrasted ideas as one of the very first impressions on his mind. It is not merely a theological difference. It is a psychological difference which can outlast any theologies It really is, as that sort of scientist loves to say about anything, incurable. Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether be likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. His instincts and imagination can still connect them, when his reason can no longer see the need of the connection; for him there will always be some savor of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby; some hint of mercy and softening about the mere mention of the dreadful name of God. But the two ideas are not naturally or necessarily combined. They would not be necessarily combined for an ancient Greek or a Chinaman, even for Aristotle or Confucius. It is no more inevitable to connect God with an infant than to connect gravitation with a kitten. It has been created in our minds by Christmas because we are Christians; because we are psychological Christians even when we are not theological ones. In other words, this combination of ideas has emphatically, in the much disputed phrase, altered human nature. There is really a difference between the man who knows it and the man who does not.”– G. K. Chesterton, The God In The Cave, The Everlasting Man, 1925
This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is My flesh.John 6:51