There is a crack, a crack in everything… that’s how the light gets in.
— Leonard Cohen, Anthem
“Why do you hate the baby Jesus?”
A very nice woman from my Catholic parish raised her hand after my presentation. It wasn’t the sort of question I had hoped for after spending a couple of hours in a crowded parish hall talking about the liturgical year. I thought I had made the point that Christmas was about so much more — that the “walking / talking Jesus” needed to be part of our Christmas Eve celebration, that the passion, the death and resurrection of Jesus were with us that holy night too, as we prayed the Eucharistic prayer. But maybe she was on to something. I really did have a problem with the baby Jesus, or more to the point, with the kind of sentimental Christianity that is more comfortable with a helpless babe than with a grown man talking about how we are called to treat the poor. My favorite image for Christmas in those days was of God crashing into our world, leaving broken pieces and shards of reality, making a mess of our assumptions and comfortable habits.
The beauty of the liturgical year is that we get a chance to re-do, to think, to worship in a new way each year, as we spiral toward the coming of God’s dream realized on earth. We go around the liturgical circle, and we start and end in a new place every time.
I’ve spiraled around the liturgical calendar 20 times since that afternoon when I did a poor job holding up the both/and of Christmas. This year I feel God sneaking in through the cracks, not crashing in but streaming in… oozing in… pouring in — washing over me and filling up the cracks and holes and scars in my heart and soul, as a balm for my pain and my sadness, to make this wounded creature whole.
This year I am cracked open by my mother’s dementia, by the way it has changed how we are as a family, and how I am as a daughter and a sister. I’m in no condition for God to come crashing into my life. This little crack of mine has become the way in for the light, for the love, for the energy of God — from the small graces of my once critical mother now just letting the small things go, to the miracle of her surrender to my judgment and my care. Every rough day, every decision second-guessed, is accompanied by moments of gratitude. I have never felt so deeply appreciated and I have never felt so deeply grateful.
And sometimes I just find myself screaming in the car on that long drive back home on Friday evening. Sometimes I feel very, very sorry for myself. Sometimes I just know I’ve done the wrong thing and I beat myself up ungraciously — for being imperfect. And then I let brother Leonard Cohen preach to me: “Forget your perfect offering… there is a crack in everything… that’s how the light gets in.”
Richard Rohr says, “Those who can recognize the Divine within their own puny and ordinary souls will be the same who can freely and daringly affirm the Divine Presence in the body of Jesus and also in the body of the whole universe.” This Christmas I am so, so hungry to invite that divine presence to bubble up through the cracks in my ordinary life, to heal the cracks in the human family — the divine presence I experience in the words and teaching of Jesus; the divine presence of spirit in our beloved community and throughout creation — and yes, the divine presence in that baby in the manger, with whom I have finally and absolutely fallen in love.
Christina Honchell is Parish Administrator of All Saints Church, Pasadena.