I like to think of the mind as the center city into which flows five major highways: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. It is by way of these thoroughfares that we experience life in all its complexity. It is by the senses that we learn, gain insights, and internalize all that is true and helpful for life.
If ever there were a truth that needed to be internalized in every way, it is the amazing story of a God who spoke all things into existence and continues to sustain creation with His breath, yet who loved His creation so much that He himself came as a helpless baby to touch us at our point of need. When we weren’t understanding the immensity of His love for His creation, He spoke His love in terms we could comprehend: the sound of a baby’s cry on a cold night, the smell of a lowly animal-filled stable, the rough texture of a feeding trough filled with coarse straw, the brightness of a new star in the dark night sky, and the taste of the Bread of Life to feed the souls of us all.
Since that night more than two millennia ago that divided time itself into B.C. (before) and A.D. (after), those whose lives have been changed by this baby boy have created dozens of symbols and traditions in their efforts to express an event both human and divine. All the senses have been called into play by the deep longing to share the very personal experiences of a cosmic and eternal change point.
Light, warmth, belonging, satisfaction of deep unnameable hungers, fresh and eternal life, spiritual pilgrimage, the divine gifts, the return of the Song of Life…all these need the ladder of symbol to even begin to approach and express the depths of redeeming Love.
Each of us has been the recipient of a rich heritage of traditions and symbols given by others so that we can experience and in turn communicate to our children the unfathomable love of God, the God who came to walk with us, to touch us where we are broken, to feed us the true water and bread of the spirit, and to be His love made visible.
As we celebrate Christmas, let’s use all the senses, every avenue we have—to embrace this amazing Story. As we do, let’s remember to always tell and retell the reason for every tradition, giving thanks for the reality we celebrate! Let’s promise each other that every highway to the soul will never become a bypass.