This Christmas, let us meditate on the fact that Christ came to do more than save souls. Jesus came to recalibrate, reorient, and realign the imagination so that we would learn to see everything with God’s eyes. At the center of Christmas is an imaginative shift. The imagination, the faculty of the mind that helps us interpret and weave together our received stimulus into a coherent whole is the eye of the soul. It is the weaver of culture (Janine Langan). Your sightedness, your ability to weave culture well, depends upon a lively and healthy imagination, an imagination that submits to the One who imagined you. It must learn to see as God sees, to recognize–however gradually–the hiddenness of God and the secret nature of things not readily seen by the body’s eye. A robust imagination learning to see as God sees, increasingly recognizes meaning and coherence behind all this apparent randomness and chaos of life.
Christians believe that all material things point to ultimate things, the seen pointing to the unseen. We believe that this universe was created as one seamless fabric, with every created thing participating well or poorly in a meaningful, divine dance. Like Isaiah and Jacob, we are learning to align what we see with what we believe, learning to see the visible as a container for the invisible, the whole earth full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3), every inch of matter infused with God’s splendor.
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes of his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries” –Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Gerard Manley Hopkins called this world, “the news of God,” as if the very gravel under my feet and the gnats hovering around my head were not just evidence of his existence, but the pronouncement of God’s presence and God’s intimately constant, creative activity. The universe throbs with life and the news of God goes largely unnoticed by us. “If we had a keen vision of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of the roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well-wadded with stupidity” (George Eliot). Our deafness to life–to the roar behind the silence–does not change the fact that the roar springs from God who loves to create and his creativity is part of his gift to us. This whirling world filled with microbes, fireflies, hurricanes, and people is proof that he loves to gift, despite our typical lack of attention.
The charms of Christmas—the songs, the lights, the gifts–help to wire our vision properly. The world is charged with meaning and layered with signs of God. Stars are not simply balls of flaming gas, they are also guiding lights and stories in the sky. Your work and relationships, dear friend, can unmask and unveil the reality of God’s intimate presence and activity in the world for others; it can restore, recalibrate, and realign the imagination of others and of yourself. This time of year helps us to sanctify the imagination. To be “sanctified” is to be made sacred, dedicated to God. The sanctified imagination is simply a way of seeing the world that has God incarnate, Jesus Christ, as the fixed point of one’s gaze and the one by whom and through whom everything else makes sense.
Merry Christmas, friends. Celebrate the coming of Christ and the regeneration of the human imagination!