This time of year, we ask our children to believe in magic. We ask them to believe in the magic of Santa Claus, of the North Pole, of Elves, and of Reindeer. We ask them to believe that in one magical moment on Christmas Eve, a reindeer drawn sleigh transports Santa Claus and all the gifts into every home on the planet.
As we grow beyond childhood, we mature beyond the childish magic. We realize many parts of the world do not celebrate Santa Claus. We realize Santa Claus does not exist. We realize there is no factory of elves at the North Pole. We realize the impossibility of a reindeer drawn sleigh. As we get older still, we become aware of poverty in the world, and we become aware that most children do not receive gifts at Christmas. As the magic fades away, though, a parent’s hope is that the mystery remains. Our hope is that in the loss of childhood innocence and magic, the mysterious love and hope of Christmas remains.
Christianity is very similar. As a child we believe in the events of the first 11 chapters of Genesis as though they were magical events. We believe in the magic of a prayer where we ask a benevolent God for magical gifts and those magical gifts appear. As we mature, we see a world that is suffering. We see poverty, death, destruction, and evil. We suffer loss and hurt in our own lives. Finally, the day comes where we realize we no longer believe in the magic.
This year, I come to Advent once again. My belief in magic may have gone away, but a small light of hope in the mysterious still exists. I find myself still believing in the mysterious, but not necessarily the magic. I believe in the mystery of Mary, mother of the Christ Child. I believe in the mystery of God coming to Earth. I believe in the mystery of the Shepherds and the Magi. I believe in the mystery of the arrival of the Kingdom of God. I believe in the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of the resurrection, and the mystery of the 2nd Advent.
Most of all, I still believe in the faint light of the mystery of love. This Advent, I am again drawn to my favorite passage in all the traditions of Christianity, 1 Corinthians 13. This is the chapter that tells us that no matter the loss of magic in the world, the mystery of faith, hope, and love still remain. Most of all, the mystery of love still shines.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”