'Tis Christmas eve, traditionally one of my most favorite days of the year. The traditions we have associated with Christmas all start on this evening and last until tomorrow...so I'm hyped. Christmas rocks. But, surprise surprise, I actually have something a little more thoughtful to write about today.
I've been thinking alot lately about incarnation. For those of you who don't know what it means, it means "enfleshment." The doctrine of the Incarnation is that which states that God became enfleshed when he became a human in the form of Jesus. Anglicans are traditionally very incarnational people....to be incarnational means that we believe God to be present in the world in a very real and tangible way. But that all started at Christmas...
Annie Dillard wrote a passage about Easter and how Easter is so profound and radical that we should all be going to church on Easter Sunday not dressed in our finery but wearing crash helmets. While I wholeheartedly agree, I feel the same could be said (and may even be more appropriate) for Christmas. Easter could not have happened in the first place without it. But even more importantly, the fact that God became fully human is so profound that it should make us want to run around like crazy people! In other traditions of the world, God does participate in human life. Particularly if one were to look at the Hindu tradition, one will find very real interactions between God and God's people. Just look at all of the stories surrounding Krishna, or even just look at the Mahabarata and you'll get the idea. But what makes Christianity different is that God didn't just come down to the earth, God became human. Just like us. Look at the Christmas story if you're unsure. I have a rather long passage that I would like to post, written by Evelyn Underhill called "The Light of the World."
"...the heavens open and what is disclosed? A Baby, God manifest in the flesh. The stable, the manger, the straw; poverty, cold, darkness--these form the setting of the divine gift. In this child God gives his supreme message to the soul- Spirit to spirit-but in a human way. Outside in the fields the heavens open and the shepherds look up astonished to find the music and radiance of reality all around them. BUt inside, our closest contact with that same reality is being offered to us in the very simplest, homeliest way-emerging right into our ordinary life. A baby-just that. We are not told that the blessed, virgin Mary saw the angels or heard the Gloria in the air. Her initiation had been quite different, like the quiet voice speaking in our deepest prayer- 'The Lord is with thee!' 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord.' Humble self-abandonment is quite enough to give us God...
It is easy for the devout to join up with the shepherds and fall into place at the crib and look out into the surrounding night and say, 'Look at those extraordinary intellectuals wandering about after a star with no religious sense at all! Look at that clumsy camel, what an unspiritual animal it is! We know the ox and the ass are the right animals to have! Look what queer gifts and off types of self-consecration they are bringing; not the sort of people who come to church!' But remember that the child who began by receiving these very unexpected pilgrims had a woman of the streets for his faithful friend and two thieves for his comrades at the end: and looking at these two extremes let us try to learn a little of the height and breadth and depth of his love--and then apply it to our own lives.
Beholding his glory is only half our job. In our souls too the mysteries must be brought forth; we are not really Christians till that has been done. 'The Eternal Birth,' says Eckhart, 'must take place in you.' And another mystic adds that human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeing on the quiet. And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and int heir very manger he must be laid- and they will be he first to fall on their knees before them. Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in his simply poverty, self-abandoned God."
Just some food for thought. Merry Christmas everyone.