JAMES BEHRENS: God shines through the lull of our lives in poetry, song, Christmas magic

James Behrens

James Behrens

Many of us have difficulty when it comes to expressing what we feel. We seem to do fine when it comes to talking about everyday things like the weather, or sports -- the kind of discourse that is just enough to get us through a day or under an umbrella.

But we falter when it comes to looking deeply within ourselves and saying what we see, what is there, though we know it is there. Even though we do not know how to say it, we can immediately recognize its presence when a poet or any gifted speaker or writer says something that "clicks."

And we then say, "That is how I feel but I never knew how to say it."

This recognition of the latent but always familiar is one of the reasons behind the endurance of many a poem or song. Music, words, that go deeply enough into the heart to rouse an awareness of "Yes, that's IT!" enable us to see ourselves. They are real gifts -- and we keep them and mull them over and over because they offer us a entry into the place that can only be worded with beauty, longing, memory, hope.

Admittedly, there are not many among us who can offer us such words. But that does not mean that we lack the places for which such words are meant. Everyone has a heart. And everyone longs to be awakened to its promise, its power.

I think that the magic of Christmas has something to do with the above. The mystery of the Incarnation resonates with the divine presence within us. The Incarnation is not solely an "outer" event. We, too, are bearers of the Word made Flesh. The heart and, if you will, "ears" of God are within each of us.

In a real sense, God sees and loves the world He made through us. We laugh, He laughs. We hope, He hopes. We suffer, He suffers. And when we are shallow, or forgetful, or mean-spirited -- He is there, too, in our hearts, waiting for better words or times to come.

He never goes away. We cannot "un-God" ourselves.

Most of us go through life as if asleep. We may be busy, productive and all that, but we rarely take the time to rest a bit and see. Perhaps that is the way it is supposed to be. I would guess that if most people stopped to gaze at the roses below or the stars above, there would be problems with the productive sequence of things.

So, maybe we need the lull of our lives to get by. And every now and then a string of words comes our way that hits us like a train and we are awakened to who we are, and how beautiful this all is, and how fleeting, tender and aching it is. It is then that we want it all -- want to taste it all, see it all, hold it all -- but it dances out of our grasp and we soon fall back to our sleepy lives.

But God does not. He is awake, within us, wide awake. When those wonderful words come, He rattles the heart with a "See, I told you so!" And we are thrilled, ecstatic -- and then have to put the kids to bed, or make dinner, or fix the car.

But those things are beautiful, too -- and someone, somewhere, is at this moment writing just the right words for the sacredness of those ordinary, sleepy-time activities.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is james@trappist.net.