Would you ever leave Heaven?
Seriously, would that thought ever cross your mind? Perhaps if our image of Heaven is sitting on a cloud all day with a harp you can't play, then yes, you might want a change of scenery. But that is just a common artistic depiction of a reality beyond our understanding.
Jesus always used images of a giant house with a giant party. It is a place of peace and plenty and fulfillment. It is the place where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” (Rv 21:4) In heaven, there will be no pain. Think about all of the small, humdrum annoyances that will be gone: stubbed toes, charlie horses, ice cream headaches, constipation, bonked heads, motion sickness... all of it gone, those thousand natural shocks that flesh is 'ere to. And those are only the small things.
The big problems will be gone too. No more sickness and disease. No more overwhelming anxiety over loss and finances and health. No more saying goodbye to those we love.
But Heaven is not simply the absence of suffering. That's what Buddhists are hoping for: an end to pain only. In Star Trek Generations, Kirk could not accept an idyllic existence because it was only removal of pain. If you had a choice, would you choose to never experience the physical pain of hunger or to always have access to the foods you want? We don't want to just not be hungry. We want to be filled.
But Heaven will be a place where our deepest heart's longing will be fulfilled. We will have achieved forever that thing we wanted most in life. We all want happiness. And not just happiness, we want happiness forever. And we have it forever because we will be in the presence of that which will always make us happy forever: Love Itself. Or rather, Love Himself.
So that is Heaven. It is a place where we will be free of any torment and agony and a place where we will finally be at peace because our deepest desperate desires have been satisfied. We will be surrounded by the ones who love us most.
Would you ever want to leave that?
Think about what that would mean. On the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the characters died. Her friends brought her back to life, but she seemed horribly disoriented. When she finally spoke she asked, "Is this hell?" It turned out that she had actually gone to Heaven, but was yanked back to our world. She says:
"I was happy. Wherever I was... I was happy... at peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time... didn't mean anything. Nothing had form. But I was still me, you know? And I was warm. And I was loved. And I was finished. Complete. I - I don't understand theology or dimensions, any of it really... but I think I was in heaven. And now I'm not. I was torn out of there. Pulled out, by my friends. Everything here is hard and bright and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch. This is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that. Knowing what I've lost."
From pure pleasure and boundless bliss to grunting and sweating under a weary life? Who could endure such a thing?
Well someone did.
On the dirty floor of a smelly stable, in the cold of night far from home, someone left Heaven and entered our world. He was free and bound by nothing until he wrapped Himself in the frailty of humanity. He experienced things on that first night that He had not in his entire eternal existence: cold, hunger, fatigue, pooping, having someone wipe your poop, thirst, discomfort... in other words, suffering.
He entered a world that promised Him only pain. There was nothing that we had to offer Him that could make Him happy. He was already happy. He was surrounded by the presences of His Father and Their Spirit. But in this world the veil would fall and He would one day cry out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" He who knew no sin would be come sin on the cross.
Christmas is a time of generosity because we must remember what it is to be generous. Generosity is not giving from our surplus. Generosity cost something. Christmas is the time that we learn that it cost God to love us by leave the Heavenly throne to lay in a throne made of donkey hay.
But that is not the full point either. We have to look deeper. Yes, coming into this world was painful, but why do it if we have nothing to offer Him? Because He has something to offer us.
He came to this world because it was the only way for us to know who He really is. He is the one who would pay any price, even die, than be without us. Jesus did not fall from Heaven to Earth.
He brought Heaven to Earth.
So on this Christmas, let us remember that Our Lord came to save us by becoming one of us so that He could bring us to paradise where we will all one day sleep in heavenly peace.