I love winter in the mountains. It's the solitude I cherish the most. There's a quietness I find difficult to describe in poetic phrases. The air is so fresh you can taste it, and the sky is so clear you feel engulfed by it. Roll after roll of mountain ranges stand against the horizon as far as your eyes will carry you. Night skies produce a vibrancy of stars set against a black canvas, who's depth carries the imagination to another dimension. A dimension beyond the body and the physical reality we're so accustom too. A place were order prevails in the precession of the solar system..
It's late December, a time when peace becomes a focus to reach for, yet seldom achieved.
I like to do a little wood carving during these quiet times, nothing fancy. It helps me reflect on the months that seemed to have passed by so quickly. A time to take my thoughts away from a world of material goods and a chance to look into the spirit of the human soul, its goals and purpose.
I'm just finishing the final touches on a small carving, no more than five inches long. A small carving by most standards, but special to me just the same.
As I gaze upon the carving I begin to ponder the coming of the holiday season. Within its shaped lines I start to recognize a familiar theme, a reflection of my inner thoughts and feelings towards a holiday that is sacred to so many. A time of sharing love and gift giving for others, Christ Mass...Christmas. But like many holidays, human emotion sets the pace, what feels great in anticipation can often become anti-climactic due to our own expectations. Unfortunately, too many of us have lost the true sight of the Christmas gift.
The carving has inspired me to open my eyes towards a hallowed time. A small piece of shaped wood takes on an abstract view, that to me, represents the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christmas can be either a rewarding or an exceedingly trying time of the year. It's difficult to bear up against a darkness that seeks to steal our joy and distract us from the true meaning of this holiday season.
I remember reading in the book of Matthew, a verse that signified one of the more essential reasons for the coming of Christ, and I felt it was very appropriate to this carving, Matthew 10:34.
I understand that the carving may seem a bit unorthodox in design for a time of peace, love, and harmony. But it does represent the sheer power bestowed upon us in His name, and as you continue to read on, its significance will become obvious.
Scholars have debated madly over the date of the birth of Christ, some claiming that He was born in the Fall during the Jewish Festival of the Horns. Some theologians claim that by associating the birth of Christ to December 25th, Christians are actually celebrating the pagan ritual of the Winter Solstice.
Personally, I can appreciate the astrological date of December 25th, darkness moving into light, demonstrating our need for His light in our world. It's a conceivable notion to place the eve of his birth approximately three days after the Winter Solstice, the earth's darkest day of the year. For it is on the eve of Christmas that we anticipate a light coming from the eastern sky that will bring us the gift of hope and restoration for yet another year.
Whether Christmas is generous or Christmas is lean, God's promise has always remained the same....the life of His Son would be given unto us, resurrecting once again the Tree of Life, that we rejected in the Garden. All we're required to do, is believe in His name.
Christ came in the name of love. He healed the sick, resurrected the dead, taught us the proper use of free will, and gave His life to pay the ransom debt for our sins. Unfortunately, we still lose sight of what might be one of the more significant reasons for why He came.
In this modern world of high minded, techno-attitudes, many choose to dismiss completely, a power freely given to us by merely evoking His name.
He came, not just to clean up our mess, pay the bills and put us on our way. He came to cast out a consuming darkness from our lives. It is this darkness that brings turmoil into our lives, and it is the Great Deceiver who finds us to be such valuable trophies, that he just can't resist assaulting us with his guerrilla warfare, especially during times we are suppose to be focusing on brotherly love. Capitalizing on our weaknesses, this undesirable serpent will slither into our good deeds, creating chaos, while coining the phrase, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."
If we, as Christians, seek to achieve in this world, we must challenge the enemies of Christ. This enemy has no recognizable face, but can be seen in the eyes of those who wish to see us destroyed for their sake alone. God decides where each of us are to stand, and it's a duel to the finish, once we throw down the gauntlet of Christ. Once we are in God, through Christ, there's no turning back, no retreat. For we cannot deny the presence of the Omnipotent, once we have accepted Him into our life.
This acceptance of His presence, arms us with a power brought by Christ, a power only an enlightened mind can conceive for his or her personal use. This symbolized carving of a knife bears witness to the proclamation made by Jesus Christ in Matthew. This chapter in Matthew prioritizes Christ as the absolute figure of focus in our lives.
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword."
If mankind had not fallen in the Garden, we would never have known the magnitude of God's grace for our sins. In the Garden, God fulfilled all our desires, the greatest desire being love or woman, and is not woman, desire made flesh. Desire is the basis of all our motivations, both good and bad. Our desire to achieve in God's will, has provoked the Predator of Darkness to seek our souls with deception. Although, from the beginning, God had a plan to outwit this Prince of Darkness, to make way for the birth of a savior.
''And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.''
Due to our error in desire, we fell, and through desire made flesh, God sent His atonement for our sins. And it is only by the grace of God that we have this most joyous day of the year to celebrate.
Christmas symbolizes the coming of Jesus Christ. It is through symbols such as the written word of God, flesh, stone, wood and spirit that God speaks to us. To me, the carving express the word of God and I'll use its shape and form to reflect His inspired message.
The sword has been the symbol representing God's ability to cut through the darkness surrounding our lives, thus the Archangel Michael and his sword doing battle against the darkest foe, but it's the birth of the Messiah that has given us a sword in the very name of Jesus Christ.
The carving is a metaphor for the sword of Christ. The Bowie blade design, demonstrates its ability to cut in two directions, up-down, left-right, piercing the darkness with the sign of the cross. The upper back bone of the blade adds firmness to its cutting force. Between the blade and handle it has a cutlass style shield, protecting the user's hand, representing a sort of Christ Shield. The handle is of an exaggerate size, demonstrating a strength and endurance, while the end of the handle is the crown of power and spiritual direction.
The knife carving is small like the infant Jesus, and no one questions the power of His size. Both the knife and the infant are male symbols.
My wife has just finished putting the trimming touches on a sheath that houses the knife. It's only fitting that a women make the sheath. The sheath represents the vessel of the Holy Virgin Mary's womb, nurturing God's gift to humanity, until it's the time of His emergence into a world where a war against darkness is a daily battle.
The single white feather that adorns the sheath represents the Holy Spirit, whom by which, a child is immaculately conceived for the purpose of overcoming the error man made in the Garden.
Together the knife and sheath are of a perfect size to cradle in the hand, like the infant Jesus was, when He was cradled in the hands of humanity.
I've decided to give the carving the name...THE CUTLASS OF CHRIST.
" I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
He cut through the darkness to bring us the light, so that those who have eyes will see; and for those who have ears will hear; and so that those who have a heart for God's will, forever will know His Truth.
As the clock winds down towards Christmas Eve, the smiles on many folks faces, especially the children seem to grow bigger and bigger. Yet the hurt of life's challenges add additional suffering to those who are troubled both by emotional pain, and financial lack. Their dimming spirits are stealing the joy of a holiday that should be regarded as precious. God is offering to us all, a chance for a brighter tomorrow, but you have to first except the gift He is freely giving. It's not under a Christmas Tree or stuffed in a stocking hanging over the fireplace. It's wrapped in the human heart and waiting for you. You only have to open it.