It’s Christmas, and the sky is zagged with lightning. No one’s dreaming of a white Christmas around here. It’s thunderstorms today. But hey, we had our biggest snow of the year on Easter morning, so why not thunderstorms on Christmas?
Lightning on Christmas seems like it should be a metaphor for something. God’s kingdom breaks into the world with the birth of Jesus, the one who John the Baptist promised would come to baptize with “the Spirit and with fire” the one who’s got the “winnowing fork in his hand” (Matt. 3:11-12). We tend to focus on lanky, bucolic shepherds and gift-bearing magi in plush robes gathered around a chubby bambino, but John had something a little fiercer in mind. Behold the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord!
The Wisdom of Solomon, an ancient scripture now found in the Protestant Apocrypha, is sometimes read on Christmas Eve. It goes like this:
For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, your all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior (Wisdom 18:14)
The passage was originally intended as a poetic description of the coming of the angel of death to take the Egyptian firstborn, but it gets retrofitted in Christian tradition to describe the coming of Christ on Christmas. Talk about reinterpretation. I love the action and intensity of the text. The night’s “swift course was now half gone.” The word “leaped from heaven.” The word landed in a doomed land as “a stern warrior.” It gives Christmas Eve a bit of an edge.
John the Baptist and the Wisdom of Solomon envisioned the coming of Christ as God’s power-move, an invasion of God’s glory into the wintered, sin-gloomed world. Jesus’ birth was a little less on the tender and mild side, and more like a lightning bolt breaking the silence.
Remember this as the sky rumbles on Christmas. Remember God’s glory poured out in mercy. Remember that Christ’s birth into that silent, enveloping dark was really a volley in the ancient battle that culminated in the cross and resurrection.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Have a blessed Christmas.