Morning Ps. 122, 145
Evening Ps. 40, 67
Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed… Luke 22:41
On the Mount of Olives we see Jesus and his disciples in a moment of great sadness, and we see two very different ways of coping with it. Jesus somehow finds the inner capacity to receive strength from an angel and “pray more earnestly.” The disciples, only a “stone’s throw away,” are completely incapacitated by despair and they “sleep because of grief.” Most of us are familiar with both these ways of coping with devastation. Sometimes, it forces us to expand our field of vision and find some kind of
irrational strength that we couldn’t have imagined we possessed. Other times, there is only despair that leads us to want nothing more than a bed, and to sleep forever.
Just a stone’s throw of distance made all the difference. Jesus was not much further up the mount, but it was enough to completely alter the view. Even a micro-second glimpse of this “God’s-eye-view” is enough to summon the angel. In his deep anguish, I think even Jesus was surprised by this inexplicable, irrational source of courage.
I believe Jesus wanted people to know how short the distance was between his view and their own view. Of course, the distance seems great when you are straining against strong, persistent conditioning to the contrary, but nonetheless, we are a part of God, whether we realize it or not.
Jesus wanted Peter to discover his own spiritual capacity when he invited him onto the surface of the sea. Peter found that capacity. It doesn’t matter that he fell. A brief glimpse of eternity is enough to ignite an entire human life. And Peter, though he stumbled, was lit up until the end. Jesus didn’t give him anything new; he just awakened something that had long been asleep.
Christmas is a time of awakening. We can open our eyes wide and see just how close this story is to us. It’s not even a stone’s throw away, but completely inseparable from us. It is our story.
I recently read an anonymous text where the author says, “All the festivals of the year aim at resurrection. And that of Christmas is the resurrection of the Child who was worshipped by the shepherds of Bethlehem and the magi of the Orient. But it is at the same time the festival of the resurrection of the shepherds and magi also…For just as the Child is present at Christmas, so also there is an awakening and activation at Christmas of forces (including individual souls) capable of receiving His revelation, be it from angels or from the stars.”
May the Christmas forces be awakened within us.
May the soft candlelight blur our artificial boundaries.
May our singing raise holy sparks.
May we stare at the sky in amazement.