It’s a beautiful song, but it’s a terrible message. Because the idea behind Christmas is that God is not watching us from a distance. Instead, Christmas says that God is with us, among us, inside us. The miracle of the incarnation speaks of God’s imminence, not his transcendence. It proclaims that there is not separation between earth and heaven, body and spirit, Creator and creation. All is one, all is in God, and God is in all.
It’s kind of like the feeling you get at Christmas—that strange, luminous quality that everything takes on, everyday life is suffused by the numinous, the ordinary is suddenly extraordinary, the mundane is holy. Of course, it’s hard to live with that kind of numinosity all the time—which is why the Christmas season is important—it reminds us of what is really true all the time.
It’s sacramental really. It’s like when we come on Sundays and gather around the communion table. It’s not that this space or this bread or wine is particularly holy, but by setting apart this time and calling it holy, by setting apart this bread and wine, and acknowledging them as holy, we are sensitized to holiness—we learn what it means to walk on holy ground, we know how to treat things that are sacred—so that when we turn our attention to other place and other things and we recognize that they, too, are holy, we know how to treat them. We know how to walk in those places. We know how to eat those meals with reverence.
In Christmas time we set aside a temporal season as holy, so that when we enter into other times, even difficult times, and we recognize those times as holy, too, we know how to treat them, how to enter into them with reverence.
Because God isn’t just in this meal, God isn’t just in this season, God isn’t just in this place. God is with us always, intimately connected with us, filling every meal we share, dwelling with us in every place we’re in, sharing our times, the good and the bad. Not watching us from a distance, but knee-deep in this holy muck with us, sharing our sorrows and our joys, our dark nights and our brighter days.