Merry Christmas (2016)

There are gentle reminders that we are not alone, and that our awakening from dreams of death and separation into the light of seamless life is sure, and Christmas can be one of them, if we want it to be.

“Adoration of the Magi” / Giotto di Bondone

Christmas is another story in time, another cultural artifact reflective of learning and place, another image that we place before God, and worship in God’s place, but the harm is not to God, nor to wholeness, nor to Life. It is simply a form of delay: of putting off for another day the quiet happiness of resting in Creation as Creation, which is our home.

When we see at last that we – the discrete self called “Sean” or “insert-your-name-here” – is not in charge of anything, and cannot really do anything, and is more in the nature of a ripple in the living waters of Christ, then we can begin to relax into whatever celebration of holiness presents itself. It isn’t that Christmas is right, and it isn’t that Christmas is wrong: it’s that Christmas is here. Now it is Christmas.

So I wake at three a.m. and distribute gifts beneath the tree and stuff stockings with candy and baseball cards and polyhedral dice. I water the tree so it won’t be thirsty. I write a note from Santa to those of my children who still believe in Santa, and I read in my late father’s breviary prayers and intercessions and hymns, and later yet carry hay and a little grain to the horses for whom it is not Christmas but simply another morning in winter. This is how life appears to me: this is what happens.

In Christmas we can give attention to the birth of that which cannot die, and which calls us to partake of its divine and eternal life. This is not a child in a manger, though it may help us to see it that way. It is a Christian ideal, though it may help us to use that language and imagery.

And the life of which we speak is not human – is not contingent on a heart or lungs – and was not really born and so will not really die. It is that which existed before the universe, and which flows in and through the universe, and will remain when the universe is gone. We call it “God” or “Love” or “Light” or “Life” and these words, while well-intentioned, mainly reflect our spiritual poverty because that to which they point cannot be contained by syllables. It contains the syllables! And contains that which utters or writes them . . .

And so one drifts into abstraction or poetry, metaphysics or textual analysis, deep thoughts about inner peace and justice. It’s okay. But in Christmas -if we want and if we are ready – we can turn away from all that. We can sit quietly by and be attentive to the stillness that is never not at hand: we can partake of the joy that is our true being and essence, which cannot be divided, and is wholly given.

So Jesus is born: and we are born with him: and from our kitchens and our barns, with our families and our friends, we sing alleluia in whatever way is fit. In gratitude we become the Lord, and the Lord – in Love – becomes us.

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