For Christmas

A favorite passage I saw quoted once that seems relevant to the Christmas season, reflecting on the meaning of the incarnation. From the 1928 Myles Connoly novel Mr. Blue  (h/t Peter Robinson in a 2004 post!; I’ve been using this in class from time to time ever since):

Night had smothered the city, and the city gave up its protest in uncountable millions of bubbles and gasps of light. Below was glittering Manhattan. The east was black. The opaque hilly horizon of the west was razor-edged against a last gleam of cold white light. Destroyers rode the unbridged Hudson; ferries and small craft flecked her with light. The East River lay her dark secretive self, coddling her treasure, Blackwell’s Island, lay a cool, lamp-spotted, many-bridged stream between the sprawling white conflagrations of Brooklyn and Manhattan. It was terrifyingly beautiful up on the roof, four hundred feet above the gaudy streets, four hundred feet up in the cool dark silences, four hundred feet up nearer the stars….

[Blue] put his hands into his trouser pockets and leaned backward, his face toward the heavens, now filling with stars.

“I think,” he whispered half to himself, “my heart would break with all this immensity if I did not know that God Himself once stood beneath it, a young man, as small as I.”

Then, he turned to me slowly.

“Did it ever occur to you that it was Christ Who humanized infinitude, so to speak? When God became man He made you and me and the rest of us pretty important people. He not only redeemed us. He saved us from the terrible burden of infinity.”

Blue rather caught me off my guard. I might have admitted in him a light turn for philosophy. I did not expect any such high-sounding speculation as this. But he was passionately serious. He eyes were glowing in the dark. He threw his hands up toward the stars: “My hands, my feet, my poor little brain, my eyes, my ears, all matter more than the whole sweep of these constellations!” he burst out. “God Himself, the God to Whom this whole universe-specked display is as nothing, God Himself had hands like mine and feet like mine, and eyes, and brain, and ears!….” He looked at me intently. “Without Christ we would be little more than bacteria breeding on a pebble in space, or glints of ideas in a whirling void of abstractions. Because of Him, I can stand here out under this cold immensity and know that my infinitesimal pulse-beats and acts and thoughts are of more importance than this whole show of a universe. Only for Him, I would be crushed beneath the weight of all these worlds. Only for Him, I would tumble dazed into the gaping chasms of space and time. Only for Him, I would be confounded before the awful fertility and intricacy of all life. Only for Him, I would be the merest of animalcules crawling on the merest of motes in a frigid Infinity.” He turned away from me, turned toward the spread of night behind the parapet. “But behold,” he said, his voice rising with exultancy, “behold! God wept and laughed and dined and wined and suffered and died even as you and I. Blah!—for the immensity of space! Blah!—for those who would have me a microcosm in the meaningless tangle of an endless evolution! I’m no microcosm. I, too, am a Son of God!”

He finished his outburst with a great gesture to the stars.

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