There's something about contrast that makes a story worth reading. When telling people about my love for Cormac McCarthy's The Road, I always have to fend off a nervous preoccupation with what many consider to be the author's tendency toward dark and hopeless plots. Make no mistake about it, McCarthy has an ability to paint human depravity in all of it's frightening detail, and The Road is no exception. But what makes the novel so astonishing is how grand small moments of grace appear against the backdrop of a world that has sunk into the depths. Light shines brightest when the dark is at it's darkest.
Earlier today, as the sun was setting, I stepped outside to look around. On the northwest corner of my back yard is an old building that houses a furniture store. It is one of those businesses that is intent on just holding on as long as it can. If the building was painted before, the color has long since gone away. I was standing in the field that is adjacent to our house. A cold front blew through this morning, and the sun has been behind clouds all day. Being Sunday evening, the streets to east of me, the ones that take people to downtown, were all still. I could hear the buzz of traffic from Waco drive a few blocks down the road, but it was otherwise a rather peaceful moment.
I thought about the week ahead and all the people who make my life worth living. I thought about work and the gifts I still have to buy. In my mind was ringing the words to O, Holy Night and I considered it a blessing to be cold. Because the cold is a perfect metaphor for the state of our world, and of the condition of the human soul. And all this somehow makes the warmth flowing out of a manger long ago just a little more comforting. It draws us closer to the thrill of hope that causes a weary world to rejoice.