thinking theology

Incarnation

God within, the whisper of breath, slipping in and out,
God around us, the joyful reunion of molecules dancing to and from each other,
God beyond us, the pearly light of dawn, shivering on a horizon, not yet imagined, waiting to be born.

On Sunday morning I was astonished yet again by the wisdom of children. They easily grasped the philosophical complexity of the divine residing within as well as outside us and beyond human knowledge. What was more astonishing was their response to the following quote from Matthew 25:37-40.

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

I asked them what they thought this quote might have to do with beginning the story of Jesus with his birth. They said, “Well obviously you have to take care of a baby. They have to be cleaned and clothed and fed and they cry. It’s easy with babies but harder to remember with grown ups.”

If we believe that in Jesus, the fullness of love was born, then we must say that love is present throughout the creation, not only in one man in history. And so the incarnation is about the “more-than-Presence” entering the soiled and suffering and humility of human existence. In that sense, each of us is viscerally related to all of the earth. The essence of all that is good is immanent, as well as transcending our fear of contingency and vulnerability.

I used to have this romantic notion that human viciousness hurt God but now I think, more urgently, that we wound ourselves. The nails and torture we use to pierce each other, pierce our own bodies. We are dirty and tired and screaming. Our bodies are torn and our souls are aching from too much grief, too much suffering, too much pain. We watch one military action lead to another, one injustice after many, resulting in rage. Our destruction is fuelled by, and reignites, the factories of hate and fear.

We can turn again, however, to a gentleness and compassion that we can nurture in ourselves and share amongst ourselves; a gentleness and compassion that will affect the balance of peace in the world, although not so dramatically that it is newsworthy. The problem is that peace arises from silence and, like roots and seeds, grows in silence. The work of peace lies in connection rather than obedience. The work of peace must allow for creativity, and diversity; it cannot guarantee a design that will not have artistic freedom because that is how Spirit behaves. The work of peace cannot be mandated or constrained.

Incarnation is not only about the sins of humanity. For those of us who experience the more expansive reality that encompasses our earth, incarnation promises a different potential. It is about the peace found in stillness. It is about the birth for which we are waiting. It is about healing all that already lives.

In the still of the night, a woman’s voice cries out in that odd mixture of suffering and joy that heralds a birth; then, a baby cries out, and then there is silence. It is the silence of fulfillment, a moment so fraught with love and power, that the stars are still and the earth is hushed in hope.

The child forgives and forgets the severing and the fear; the mother forgets and forgives the pain. And, finally, love grows in the quiet space before the work of daylight.

The story of the nativity captures the best dreaming of humanity because it allows us to trust that we are involved in an evolution of consciousness larger than our dreams, more elaborate than we could design. The story reminds us that at the beginning of every creation, God observes and pronounces it good. The Dalai Lama said to consider a mosquito when you wondered about the power in small beings. Consider the cry of a baby to call us from complacency. Consider the babies we all once were and the silence from which we came. Consider the stars that make us feel so small but inspire us to dream so high. With God nothing is impossible, and God is with/in us.

God within, the whisper of breath, slipping in and out,
God around us, the joyful reunion of molecules dancing to and from each other,
God beyond us, the pearly light of dawn, shivering on a horizon, not yet imagined, waiting to be born.

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Comments on: "Incarnation" (1)

  1. Randy McCormick said:

    … what a beautiful Christmas gift this short piece is. Thank you … and thanks for tying the package up with a bow of poetic reflection …

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