Crossed My Mind: Thoughts on Culture and Communication
By John Hatch, Ph.D.
Eastern University (retired)
CCSN Senior Fellow
Column Description: As Christians, we are called to have the mind of Christ. This goes against the grain of our social and cultural conditioning. We seek personal or political advancement; Christ seeks the lost and the least. We grasp for cultural ascendency; Christ descends to the cross of love. This column is dedicated to thinking about culture and communication under the sign of the cross.
The Silent Word Still Echoes
For this holiday season, I’d like to share a couple of Christmas songs, each of which amplifies a different theme from my columns.
The first theme is that God’s truth is much larger and richer than human words can say. While there’s no limit to what can be said of God, there is one Word of God—the eternal and living Logos, who became incarnate through the virgin Mary and began his life in the silence of the womb. As Frederick Buechner writes: “Before it is a word, the Gospel that is truth is silence, a pregnant silence in its ninth month.”[i]
These observations call to mind a Christmas song by Michael Card, The Final Word:
You and me, we use so very many clumsy words
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard
When the Father’s wisdom wanted to communicate His love
He spoke it in one final perfect word
He spoke the incarnation, and then so was born the Son
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one
Spoke flesh and blood, so He could bleed and make a way divine
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine
And so the Father’s fondest thought took on flesh and bone
He spoke the living luminous word, at once His will was done
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard
Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final word . . .
And so the light became alive
And manna became man
Eternity stepped into time
So we could understand . . .[ii]
This Word began his life without words. Like you and me, he had to learn language. He waited until the age of thirty to begin proclaiming God’s kingdom. He made his greatest statement by falling silent in death, having poured himself out for the life of the world, and then causing the earth to rumble, in rising from the tomb.
The second theme, threading through many of my columns, is that Christ takes up values we have torn asunder, and regathers them into wholeness. In him, “Mercy and truth have met together” and “Justice and peace have kissed” (Psalm 85:10, TLB).
Years ago, I wrote a Christmas song that builds on with this biblical image:
Sing out, O heavens!
Rejoice, all the earth!
Let the mountains erupt into song:
See the Lord of creation
In this humble birth—
In this Jesus,
For whom we have longed.
Roar, mighty oceans!
You rivers, arise!
Let the wind and the trees sing their song;
For the Lord of the heavens
Breaks forth with a cry!
He brings justice
For which we have longed
Through a long age of winter;
Through the darkness
The Daylight has dawned!
And his mercy from the heavens will shower;
On the earth, peace and righteousness will flower.
For in him justice and mercy join together;
In eternal embrace,
They dance to the tune of His Grace!
Sing out, O heavens,
Rejoice, all the earth,
Let the mountains erupt into song;
For the Lord of the heavens
Has come down to earth
It is Jesus
For whom we have longed![iii]
The stars still sing; the rocks still cry out; the incarnate Word still echoes. Let us join the dance, and carry on his sacred, worldly work of weaving-into-wholeness.
[i] Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale (HarperSanFrancisco, 1977), 16.
[ii] Michael Card, “The Final Word,” © 1987 Birdwing Music, Mole End Music.
[iii] “For Whom We Have Longed,” unpublished song, © 2011 John Hatch.