Jesus was born in a stable or a cave, we know that. But we do not know what time of the day or night Jesus was born. It may sound like an insignificant detail, but I want to know. My inner child wants to know. I mean, I have written a lot about this psychological reality that we have these three inner children inside us and that we also have this inner adult inside us. When we are acting our best, as our best selves, we have the inner adult on what psychologist call “lead.”
That is to say that the inner adult is leading these four in moment to moment life – telling the inner baby he or she is loved and cherished and will have needs met. Telling the inner pre-teen that life is indeed not fair and that I am sorry about that and that yes, you may explore and no I will, not inhibit you and yes, I will not be far away. Telling the inner adolescent that no, you may not hit him, punch her, or key his green car and that no you may not eat high pizzas nor stay out till 3:00 am. And that you love him or her despite him or her being one step removed from a character in a hour movie. Or a horrible mutant combo of a three-toed-sloth and a black adder.
So we have this inner adult who convenes and corrals and manages these three inner children, who are all the more messed up if they had a bad childhood.
And yet. And yet… My three inner children also have questions. They help me to see Jesus in different ways. Like our imagination, might they help us to see God? And my inner pre-teen has most of the questions right now and can tell that my inner baby is preparing a small list for Christmas morning (towards which I admit not to look forward reading because I expect them to be uncomfortable and not at all to pair nicely with egg nog…and perhaps brandy.)
My inner pre-teen – the one who keeps saying over and over and over again that “life is not fair” wants to know what time of night or day Jesus was born.
We wear midnight blue and burgundy with small flashes of Gold trim at the Cathedral in Advent. Jadon did a stunning job of working with designers to create them. No that we are heading for Christmas it is time to put them away for another year and that makes me sad and it has something to do with this question about the time of day Jesus was born.
Tradition says it was night. But there are so many gorgeous forms of night – so many times of night each with its own tone and timbre.
What I know from being a priest these last sixteen years is that most people who are dying, breath their last breath at about 3:00-5:00 am. That is also when birds begin to sing each day and it is when, as Thomas Merton says, nature asks God for permission to exist one more day.
But I have one other theory. Early morning is a wonderful time to walk in a new place. I am about to spend a vacation exploring Marrakech, my first vacation since July. I plan to walk the streets of Marrakech early in the morning as the city wakes up (and since I go to bed at 8:00 pm and so night walks are impossible!) I plan to explore. I plan to wander and look even f I may no longer smell and taste. I plan to watch the city awaken like I used to love to do early in the mornings in London, Moscow, Cairo, Chiang Mai, Jerusalem, Nairobi and Buenos Aires – my favorite cities on this little planet. I like walking easy in cities because it helps me to get to know them and their people.
And that is, finally, my point. Could it be that God arrived at that time of the day and (as the Bible tells us) explored and wandered alone at that time of day, and exhibited the Transfiguration at that time of day – could it be that God arrived in the early morning because of its intimacy and because God wants very much to explore during the brief time, 33 years, in which God takes on mortal flesh and keeps silence among His beloved creation? Could it be that God wants that kind of intimacy? And could it be that we want that with God? And might that mean that you and I need to find time to meet that intimate, curious wanderer-God in the Advent of each day?