What if? It’s a question we ask ourselves often. It opens the door to exciting possibilities and hellish nightmares. The tricky part is that this question is a lot like a television set: some of the things it shows us are real and some of the things it shows us are mere images with no factual basis. These images can be wonderful excursions into the realm of imagination that builds up our spirits. They can also be a dark flame used by ourselves and our enemy, the devil, to burn and torment our hearts. It is said of St. Anthony the Great that demons came to frighten him in the shapes of fantastic monsters and beasts. Nowadays it seems that rather than wild beasts, demons come to scare us in the form of what ifs, phantasms claiming to be things to come. In such ways, they seek to frighten us from living our lives in the fullness that God intends. They seek to make us recoil in fear from ourselves and others. Fortunately, though they may raise a terrible ruckus, God will put them to shame when we rest in Him.
As Christmas approaches, we are confronted by one of God’s “what if’s.” What if there were something coming that is going to change our lives, something that will divide our lives into “before this” and “after this”? This may sound overwhelming and even frightening. Change this big typically causes us to at least pause. Here we need to keep in mind who is asking and inviting us to ask “what if?” This is not some diabolical scare tactic. Rather, it is the opening of a door. We receive a glimpse of something above and beyond our comfort zones, which makes us nervous, but it is only our worldview and false self that are threatened, not our real, true self. What if we met someone who turned our world upside down and opened the way for us to become our true selves? It is the coming of such a Person that we look forward to as we count down the days to Christmas. The Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” captures the implications of Christ’s birth well with the lines,
“The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight”
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!