O Wisdom

The O Antiphons are a series of chants traditionally used across the final seven days of Advent. Each one is based on a particular characteristic of Jesus; the chant for 17th December is called O Sapientia, or O Wisdom; you can hear it sung below.

Imagine three weary travellers, their eyes squinting from years of poring over ancient texts, their polysyllabic words smugly confident, their bags laden with strange gifts. Imagine them played by Stephen Fry, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Benedict Cumberbatch if it helps. Imagine their confusion as a king tells them that he doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Imagine them awkwardly kneeling in a palace when the action is in a shed seven miles away. This is where their wisdom runs out.

I guess it makes sense. Christmas isn’t a time for the wisdom of the world. It isn’t a time for defence budgets that can render the Earth lifeless several times over, it isn’t a time for stock market highs and food bank lows, it isn’t a time for culture wars and their collateral damage. God wraps himself in stardust and DNA and wails from new, untested lungs. Hands that built a universe grasp his mother’s finger, the One who once walked deserts in fire and cloud now needing to be carried, to be fed, to be bathed and changed, vulnerable child of vulnerable parents, target of cold and poverty and death squads.

This is how Christmas works. No-one wise in the ways of the world would put together a strategy PowerPoint recommending a plan like this, but as St. Paul almost said, the wisdom of God is craziness to those who think they know how the world works. And at the end of a year in which none of us have been sure what’s going on, maybe now is a good time to rest in the eccentricity of God, the craziness of Christmas.