I wrote this at Christmas and meant to post it sooner, but well… here it is.
It’s 6,758 miles from here to Jerusalem. It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m listening to Dido while my 6-month-old son cries in the monitor on the counter. The tree next to me is gawking; it sits in the corner spilling out into the rest of the room like an adolescent with outgrown clothes, lanky arms and legs, knobby knees and elbows thrust out. It was cut down in central Washington by the owners of this house. Many children live here. They decorated it with paper and shiny balls and colored lights.
That there are other people—billions of other people—astounds me. I am a toddler on the living room floor. I am the sun in my universe. You revolve around me. But the stories are going simultaneously, millions of stories and one story: millions of suns and one sun. My story is a boy in an intensive care unit miles from here. He’s coming home soon, maybe for Christmas. My son has fallen asleep. The dogs are on the floor laying sideways, legs out, snoring. It’s freezing outside. The cows, there are two of them, only want to be fed. And there is more, much more, and in addition, there are many more than mine. How can God be one of us, a boy in a cave, wrapped in rags years from here?
St. Ivan of Suchava was born in the thirteenth century near the Black Sea, in modern day Ukraine. Ivan was charged with conspiring against the Sultan Oman and the Islamic faith in general. He was summonsed to a trial, convicted, and sentenced to torture and execution. He was offered mercy if he was willing to renounce the Christian faith. Being unwilling, Ivan was dragged to his death by racing horses through the streets of Ackerman, a city located on the Delta of the Danube River on June 2, 1278. He was buried in a nearby churchyard, and in 1402 his body was removed and buried in a church in Suchava, the capitol of Bukovyna.
It’s Christmas morning. The sun still slumbers. The cows are looking for breakfast. Ivan is coming home. There’s a baby for Christmas. We open stockings and unwrap gifts; we stuff garbage bags full of our holiday litter. America celebrates a high Sabbath; no one works today, there’s nothing open except maybe a gas station. I read about brothers walking around the world, the first known circumambulation of the earth. One was shot and killed in Afghanistan. The other was wounded, but a third brother flew in and helped him finish the tour. This was in the late seventies because Ronald Reagan was governor of California and gave them commendations.
And regardless of what the song may say, the cattle are not lowing. I wonder what kind of cows low. Maybe cattle low but regular old Angus beef cows just eat and sleep. I haven’t heard a sound out of them for the last several days.
But here’s to you Ivan, may the world be your sidewalk, may race horses be your friends, and may you continue to imitate the Christ, even as you have today.