The Christmas Paradox

            Science fiction writers loves the concept of a paradox.  A paradox is when two things that should not exist or happen simultaneously do so.  A paradox is something that by its very nature is contradictory.   As a series, Star Trek really likes to explore paradoxes.   An example of this is the episode entitled The Ultimate Computer.  In this episode the Enterprise has an experimental computer installed in it.  This computer, programmed after a human brain, is supposed to be the most advanced artificial intelligence ever created.   Captain Kirk begins to notice some erratic behavior with the machine, and it reaches a head when the computer takes over the Enterprise and destroys friendly ships in a war game exercise.   The computer’s creator states it was following it’s programming of self-preservation.   Since the computer’s mission is to make space travel safer for people, it refuses to give control of the ship back to the crew.   It is only through the introduction of a paradox that Kirk saves the ship.   The computer had killed to follow its self-preservation programming. However, the computer also had the ethics of its creator programmed into it.  Kirk pointed out that killing should have been against its ethics, so by carrying out its programming it was also violating its programming.  This paradox caused the computer to shut down.  

 Star Trek, as well as shows like Dr. Who or anything that involves time travel, also love to use temporal paradoxes, but those can get very wibbly-wobbly.  Every year, we go through a cultural paradox.   In our American culture we do something that is so paradoxical.   It is something by its very nature contradictory, and it is something we all just experienced.  It is Black Friday, the day where people trample each other for sales and good deals mere hours after giving thanks for what they already have.    Honestly, this whole holiday season is a bit of a paradox.  Collectively, we spend more money in between Thanksgiving and the end of the year than we do any other time.   In theory we do this to celebrate the birth of someone who once started off his most famous sermon by saying “blessed are the poor . . .”

This does not mean that are family traditions are necessarily wrong or evil.    However, when we look at the paradoxes surrounding how we celebrate Christmas, we have to admit that this season is a little off-kilter and it is in need of rebalancing.  Perhaps a way that we can do this is to start focusing on the right kind of Christmas miracle.  

The idea of a Christmas miracle is something that we are all familiar with.   If you are not familiar with it, and you have cable, then just watch the Hallmark channel.  They will be showing movies based on this concept for the next month.    The website Tvtropes.com defines a Christmas miracle like this: “a Christmas Miracle is when some highly unlikely stroke of good fortune comes to the characters in the time where they need it most, simply through the magic of Christmas.”   In the countless TV Christmas specials that have ended with a Christmas miracle, just when everything seems to be lost, everything instead works out perfectly in the end to create a perfect Christmas full of all the warm feels.   There is a true Christmas miracle, and it does not involve an angel getting its wings.   The true Christmas miracle involves a baby boy, and a divine love so great, that God sent his only son.   

The real miracle was far greater, because it was just that- a real miracle.   A miracle is not just some impossible coincidence happens.   A miracle is when the divine actively meddles with the way the world work.   A miracle is when the rules of reality are broken, and something truly incredible, truly impossible happens.    The bible is full of miracles:  The red sea parts, water comes from rocks, the walls of a city fall down, a bread and loaves multiply, and people walk on water.    Of all the miracles one of the most miraculous is that unto us a child is born.  This is the miracle, because that foretold child was Jesus and Jesus is Emmanuel-God with us.   Christmas is all about celebrating THAT miracle.   The miracle that God so love the world that God himself invaded the world to redeem it and bring it out of darkness.    The magic of Christmas is the miracle of God’s love that began at a cradle in Bethlehem and reached its fulfillment at a cross in Jerusalem.    The way that we celebrate Christmas should be first and foremost based in our humble thanksgiving for this love and earnest worship of the triune God that loves us.     We can also celebrate Christmas through our actions.   

Christmas is all about the celebration of a miracle, and in this season of advent we should be expecting miracles to happen.   Remember, a miracle is not just a stroke of good luck.   A miracle is God at work in this world.   It is the unexpected that can only happen because of God doing something incredible.   God often does not choose to perform miracles alone.   God works through God’s people.   The biblical record is full of this.   Whenever the miraculous happens, whenever the divine touches the earth in a mind blowing way, there is nearly always one of God’s faithful people there carrying the miracle out.   God chooses to work through God’s people as miracle workers. 

No matter how you go about it, Advent, this holiday season, is a season of paradoxes.   In our cultural celebration there is the paradox between being grateful and rapid consumerism.  If we were to seek to celebrate a different kind of Christmas, there is still a paradox at work here.   Miracles are not cheap, and if we are going to do be miracle workers we have to pay the costs.    This means we have to be willing to give sacrificially.    We have to give of our time, our resources, our energy, and our compassion.    A miracle is a great grace for the receiver, but paradoxically it is a sacrifice for the miracle worker.  

We should embrace the paradox. We are in a season that is meant to celebrate the greatest miracle of all time.   May we celebrate the miracle of a child being born who was to become the wonderful counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace by seeking to be his miracle workers.  This Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, may we spend less time looking for the perfect gift and more time looking how we can be someone else’s miracle.     

Hospitality in the Mines of Moria

Fresco