By Lynne Elwinger, O.C.D.
Christmas is a time for surprises, and the first Christmas was no exception. The God who, up to the moment of Jesus’ birth, was viewed as all-powerful protector and defender, ruler over all, rock of refuge and rescuer of the people, suddenly came among us as a vulnerable human infant totally dependent on human care and protection. In the twinkling of a star, our understanding of the Divine-human relationship was turned upside down. Roles are reversed in this remarkable moment of the Incarnation. We are asked to become the protectors and nurturers of the Divine in our world. An awesome gift has been given to all people, and right up to this moment in our history, we are still trying to understand what that means for our everyday lives.
Always Needing To Be Born
Mary’s “yes” to God, in total surrender of her own plans and with trust in an unknown and unknowable future, resulted in her birthing of God-With-Us into her everyday world. As she continued to walk her life’s path in that same openness and faith in God’s goodness, she entered deeply into the mystery of the shared life with the Divine Presence unfolding within her and within the activities of her daily life. That first “yes”, which we still celebrate, was followed by countless repetitions as she progressed from mother to disciple to apostle.
Meister Eckhart has told us that we too are meant to be mothers of God (this includes men as well as women), for God is always needing to be born. The Incarnation is more than a single historical event. It is an icon of the personal relationship with God into which we continue to be invited. Eckhart refers to Christmas as the feast of Eternal Birth and goes on to observe that everything lies in the understanding that this birth should also take place in us. God continues to be born in each human soul and in our lives together as family, church and community. God is still surprising us into a realization that the Divine in and among us needs nurturing and protection if we are to grow into the deep intimacy intended for us from the beginning of time.
The Incarnation makes clear the news that our God wants to play an active role in our daily lives through a loving partnership, a friendship grounded in the extraordinary love that birthed the entire creation into existence. As we respond to God’s desire for dialogue and growing relationship, we find that the relationship itself becomes the infant in the manger. This is the infant we are called to nurture with loving care, protection, and our commitment of time, energy and quality attention. In our present lifestyles that all too commonly are distinguished by a fast pace of life and unending demands on our time, this is no small undertaking.
Almost Overwhelming Initially, the effort required for us to create the space and time to be present to this Divine-human connection may seem almost overwhelming. However, when we stay with the discipline of daily times of prayer and reflection and simple resting in God’s presence, the infant relationship grows up into a mutual loving friendship. The giving and receiving of love, the true gift of Christmas, becomes the primary feature of our graced time in the Divine-human encounter – a gift meant to be passed on to all the other people with whom we share our lives. We begin to surprise them with God’s surprise, and the feast of Eternal Birth goes on and on without end.
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby – Age 5
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