Ever since I was a child, my mother has observed the season of Christmas in the same way. Some time around Thanksgiving she begins shaking her head, looking disgusted and sighing, “Oh Lordy, Lordy; it’s almost Christmas and I haven’t done a thing!” Then come four intense weeks of shopping, baking and Christmas card writing.
For some time now I have been both attracted to and troubled by the story of Abraham’s journey to present his son Isaac as a burnt offering in the land of Moriah. I was moved by Abraham’s extraordinary devotion to God but repelled by the thought that it made him willing to sacrifice his only child.
Two of the most powerful intellectual and social forces in our culture are the hard sciences and capitalist economics. Together they have conspired to produce images of personhood that undermine Christian understandings. According to these images, persons are defined by their rational capacities and their productive contributions.
I remember myself as an insomniac nine-year-old, lying sleepless in bed after my parents had turned out the lights. In those self-centered, introspective days of childhood, I hardly believed in the reality of the present. How could anything really happen? I wondered. Reality didn’t seem real until it was past, when I could turn it over in my memory and find the meaning of it.