Christmas is the season of singing. The angels sang at our Lord's birth. Mary sang when the Lord was in her womb. The church cannot stop singing of the joy of the Incarnation. Here is another hymn to add to the long list of poetry focused on Emmanuel.
When we stand east of Eden with Adam and Eve because we couldn’t keep our hands off forbidden fruit, weeping over lost loves, lost chances, lost lives...
As the monochromatic greens of summer slowly morph into autumn's vivid hues, creation clears its throat to deliver its annual sermon on the inevitable decline of life. It's a homily we feel in our bones as temperatures shrivel to single digits. We see it as the gap twixt dawn and dusk abbreviates, as night’s conquest of the territory of day advances. As a double insult to the aged, this seasonal prelude to winter, this harbinger of the death of all things, bites deeper as we stumble toward the grave. The earth puts on a fine charade, mimicking vitality, perpetuating the myth of golden vibrancy. But she gives herself away, for nothing gold can stay. In the words of Robert Frost:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Ancient is the cosmic demise. The roots of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil snaked fathomless into the soil of the earth, piercing the very core of our world. The sap of death sank through those roots to the heart of the universe. Eden sank to grief, and slowly the cosmos has been dying ever since, subjected to futility, groaning and suffering as with the pangs of childbirth. Every earthquake is the tremble of her brittle bones, every flood the cascade of her tears. She waits, long still she waits, for redemption and freedom. And while she does, nothing gold can stay.
But this dying world is still the world of our living God, who graces us with tokens of a final renewal. As leaf subsides to leaf, and frost to snow, and snow to ice, there comes a day when the gold of nature sprouts anew. The mercury ascends as the sun pulls us closer to its warm embrace. The beasts of the field begin their baby-making again. Out of soil, hardened by cold, imprisoned by snow, burst defiant vegetation. That early leaf, a flower, may last yet an hour, but in that hour is another sermon, one that proclaims spring after winter, life after death, Easter after Good Friday.
Nothing gold can stay. What can stay, however, is something far more precious than gold, and of a far different hue. Crimson can stay, for such are the stains on the body of a man who has vacated the grave of December for the resurrection of April. He has redeemed us, not with gold and silver, but with his holy, precious blood. There he stands, the Lord of creation, saying, “Lo, I make all things new.” He stays. He does not sink. He does not subside. And those who live in him, they stay, they live, they abide, for he and he alone is the resurrection and the life for all.