When I was in high school, I secretly believed that the idea of God being ‘born’ was simply outrageous. Up to that time, I had been educated according to the scientific method and trained to use the tools of critical analysis that rely upon empirical verification to substantiate ‘truth.’ My education did not leave room for a ‘god’ to swoop in from light inaccessible, break open the laws of nature, and intrude upon earth’s goings-on. In fact, my education roundly demonstrated the rather unlikely prospect of such “miracles.”
As I studied more theology and experienced more of the mystery of life—it’s sorrows, it’s triumphs, and its beauty—and as I delved more deeply into the scriptural witness to God, I started to see that God, consistent with my lived-experience, was actually already and everywhere “with-us.”
After all, had I not experienced the fullness of the mystery in the shimmering lake, the shared embrace, the tear-soaked lament, and the radiance of compassion? The miracle of the Incarnation became, for me, less about a divine surprise intervention from “some heaven light years away” and more about the fact that this world and our lives are shot-through with God’s life and presence. God really is with us. It is an enchanted cosmos.
A number of weeks ago, I was sitting talking with a friend when, through our tears of sorrow and joy, our shared experiences, and the ‘co-incidental’ nature of our encounter, I was reminded again of how near God is to us—the ‘synchronicity’ of it all and the “freshness deep down things.” My friend and I sat together wiping each other’s tears, sharing pain and sharing joy, on a step in downtown Chicago, surrounded by throngs of workers. There sat two gay men—celebrating a “miracle” or a supernatural event—that God comes near, in the flesh, where two or three are gathered…in tears, in helplessness, in vulnerability. Christ was born among us.
I no longer believe that God comes to us from “outside.”
The scriptures tell of a God that is passionately and intimately connected to us, engaged with the whole of creation that God called good, and deeply committed to us. I believe that, as we acquire the eyes to see and the ears to hear—as we begin to pay attention, as we ask and seek, and as faith within us grows—we will see a God who is, incredibly, in love with us and with the whole creation. We see a God who floods the world with divine Presence. We will see a God who is born among us, one with us and all things.
Now, all of this feels miraculous to us and supernatural, other worldly and “mystical” because we are inattentive to the Presence. I am inattentive to the Presence until, through tears, the Mystery appears. When I am paying attention, I am less surprised at the Mystery, God’s presence, God’s birth in our world, God’s life as it is lived among us; I am amazingly surprised, however, by how God is present, how God is born into the world, the kind of life God lives among us, and the places God shows up.
I am surprised that God is born to a poor young woman who is unmarried, that God shows up as a Jewish peasant, as a refugee; I am surprised that God, in Jesus of Nazareth, tries to persuade us that the poor are blessed, the rich are doomed, and that God—not presidents, CEOs, or corporations—actually rules the world; I am surprised that God slips on skin that is so revolutionary, so political, so outrageous. The miracle is not just that God-is-with-us, the miracle is that God-is-with-us in the body of Jesus of Nazareth. The miracle is not just that “God became flesh and dwelt among us”, the miracle is that God became flesh and dwelt among us as Jesus. That is the miracle. It is also our great hope.
May the miracle of the Incarnation be yours on this day and forever. Amen.
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- Reflection on the first gathering of the Commission on a Way Forward - January 27, 2017