JAMES BEHRENS: Christmas season a time to ponder our eternal gift from God

James Behrens

James Behrens

It’s a cold, sunny morning. I was looking out the window before and there must have been more than a thousand birds flying in the direction of our field, the one that stretches from this building to the roadway leading down to the bonsai area. They arrived in this enormous cloud that seemed to go on in size for several city blocks.

I wondered what kind of birds they were. Maybe they are migratory — they landed in the field and after a few minutes of pecking on the ground seeking food, they took off again.

So many mysteries in life. Some, like the birds, arrive in enormous numbers, all at once. Others come sporadically, like the comet streaking across the sky even earlier this same morning. There are others that rarely come, but arrive they do, like identical triplets — three baby girls — who were born in California just a few weeks ago.

Birds, comets, babies: Mysterious beauties that fly and feed in unison, that streak with fleeting brilliance across an early morning sky, or fill three cribs with wonders that live, smile, cry. How can words capture the truth, the meaning of such things?

The world is a feast of mysteries and we see but really do not understand them. We cannot penetrate them with our knowledge, our alleged sophistication. Yet they come again and again. We cannot catch them and hold them, to better see what we have, what we are given.

It is believed by many that Jesus is the greatest mystery of all mysteries. Son of God, gift of the Father, Divine Savior, Master of the Universe, Holy Infant. His names are many.

Christmas is here and gifts are exchanged, greetings are warmly extended, cards are sent, decorations adorn streets, homes, offices. We hope to at least temporarily dispense the darkness that surrounds us, at least for this season.

We hope for what we cannot see, for what we long for, but cannot yet understand. We hope that the Lord will come, that He is real, and that we do what we can to make Him real and true. Yet we are left with wonder and our gifts to each other.

What precious gifts they are. For they are gifts that are exceedingly delicate, fleeting, and, try as we might to keep them, they are not ours to hold and keep. They are given to us only for a while.

I watched the birds this morning but could not take them to myself. They filled me with wonder and then were gone, perhaps to another field.

And the shooting star lit the early morning sky with its brilliance — I was given a second at best to see its beauty and then it vanished, never to come again.

The triplets will grow — they will be caressed with hugs and kisses, but there will come a day when their parents will have to let them go, free them to move into life, to see their own mysteries and hopefully give birth to some of their own.

The waiting in the dark of this life is worth it. We give light to each other with our yearnings to show love to each other, to become voices of hope to those who need encouraging words, an embrace, a kind letter.

Looking back on this year, I heard a voice that waited for mystery and the mystery arrived. My sister Mary called me early one morning. I was not in the room to answer the phone, so she left a message. My niece Katie had given birth to a baby girl.

Mary said, “She is here. And her name is Mary Margaret. And she is beautiful — nine pounds of beauty.” Then she cried, softly and asked that I call. I did. And it was and is so wonderful. Just like another birth so long ago, which has everything to do with who we are and why we cry with joy over ineffable mysteries that come to us.

For these mysteries must move on into life, where we hopefully have prepared them to welcome all the mysteries that will surely come their way. For all of life is Christmas, an eternal gift from God.

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