Touchstone Addendum—A Website Exclusive

December 3, 2019

The Lord of the Field

The Kingdom of God Is Like a Treasure Hidden in a Field

How fitting it is that, in the half of the world that we share with Judea, we celebrate the birth of our Lord in the dead of winter! The seed lies sleeping in the earth, sometimes under a cover of snow. The sun, in our far northern climes, peeks over the horizon, shines ineffectually for a while to let us know he is still there, and then sinks again into night. And no one among the weary travelers to Bethlehem knew that the Lord who made the heavens and the earth had come to dwell with them in the flesh, hidden, small, speechless.

Most of the year is winter with man. His heart beats too slowly, his blood is hardly warm. He gives himself to God, and then he sinks into habit again. The Christian man has inherited the field with the treasure in it. He knows the treasure is there. Sometimes he may even dig it up to look at it before he buries it again. Mostly he is content to leave it where it is. If God will not meddle with him, he will not meddle with God.

After Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, they did not play hide-and-seek, like innocent children. They cowered. They were ashamed of themselves and of each other. They hoped that God had not seen them and their naked disobedience. We say that God is hidden from us, but isn't the truth instead that we hide from God? God reveals himself in Scripture and in the Word made flesh, and we do our best to bury both of them in tombs of learning, after we have shrouded them in all the convenient doubts we can find—the rags of habit, mostly.

But the treasure is there all the same.

And my mind turns to that man in the Lord's parable, who found the treasure. He hid it for a while so that no one would know of it, until he could go and sell all his possessions, to buy that field. When he had bought the field, are we then to believe that he left the treasure in it, unused? Did the mustard seed not germinate? Did the woman who found her coin keep it a secret?

"Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy," says the angel to the shepherds, and at his word they leave their flocks behind and go to the city of David, to find the treasure shrouded in cloth, hidden in the flesh of man, lying in a manger. The old man Simeon, a few weeks later, waiting in the Temple to see the consolation of Israel, beholds the child and sees the treasure, and gives thanks to God, saying that he may now depart from this life in peace. The Magi, too, left their country far behind, and exposed themselves to all the dangers and the privations of the way, to find—a child, no more, as far as the eye might judge, and to that child they gave rich gifts that were symbols of all that this world has to give. Most poignant of the three was the myrrh, in anticipation of the Lord's death and burial, when again he was the seed beneath the snow, except that this time he would tear the temple firmament in two, rising from the dead, and bidding the world to enter into a life that is spring and harvest at once.

C. S. Lewis's vision of a world gone wrong is that it is always winter there, and never Christmas. It is always the fallow field. No man finds a treasure, because no man is looking for one. No one hears the angels, because no one is listening. No one awaits the coming of the king, because every man is his own king, and his own slave. We no longer care for the field, because it is only a field after all, and one field is like another.

But that is not the truth. The field itself—all the earth—is a miracle, and it bears witness to the God who made it, as it bore also the print of his feet when he walked the earth as man among men. Let us no longer hide from his suffering and his joy. He purchased the field for us at the price of his blood, so that he might open up to us his riches and give to us the ultimate treasure, his very self.

May the Lord of the field and the heavens above be with you and yours.

On behalf of your friends at The Fellowship of St. James,
Anthony Esolen