Back then to the essential message of Christmas which is Emmanuel, God with us, and to the questions it raises:
Who is this God and how is he with us?

“The high and lofty One who inhabits eternity” is the answer to the first. It is the answer to the second question that seems “folly to the Gentiles” and “a stumbling block to the Jews,” because the claim that Christianity makes is that at a particular time and place God came to be with us himself. When Quirinius was governor of Syria, in a town called Bethlehem, a child was born who, beyond the power of anyone to account for, was the high and lofty One made low and helpless. The One who inhabits eternity comes to dwell in time.

In the winter of 1947 a great snow fell on New York City. It began slowly, undramatically, like any other snow. The flakes were fine and steady and fell straight, with no wind. Little by little the sidewalks started to whiten. Shop-keepers and doormen were out with their shoves clearing paths to the street. After a while the streets began to fill and the roofs of parked cars were covered. You could no longer tell where the curb was, and even the hydrants disappeared, the melted discs over manhole covers. The plows could not keep up with it, and traffic moved more and more slowly as the drifts piled up. Businesses closed early, and people walked home from work.

All evening it continued falling and much of the night. There were skiers on Park Avenue, children up way past their bedtime. By the next morning it was different city.

More striking than anything else about it was the silence. All traffic had stopped. Abandoned cars were buried. Nothing on wheels moved. The only sounds to be heard were church bells and voices. You listened because you could not help yourself.

“Ice splits starwise,” Sir Thomas Browne wrote. A tap of the pick at the right point, and fissures shoot out in all directions, and the solid block falls in two at the start. The child is born, and history itself falls in two at the star. Whether you believe or do not believe, you date your letters and checks and income tax forms with a number representing how many years have gone by since what happened happened. The world of AD is one world, and the world of BC is another. The very bells and voices of our world ring out on a different air, and if most of the time we do not listen, at Christmas it is hard not to.

Business goes on as usual, only moreso. Canned carols blast out in shopping malls, Salvation Army tambourines rattle, and street corner Santas stamp their feet against the cold. But if you have an ear for it at all, at the heart of all the noise you hear a silence, and at the heart of the silence you hear – what do you hear?

F. Buechner – Who is This God? – “A Room Called Remember” 61-63