Emmanuel—God with us—fulfills the expectation of Isaiah. Advent and Christmas reminds us dramatically that God IS with us. “The Word became human and dwelled among us.” “The Kin-dom of God is within you.” “Where two or three gather in my name, I am among you.”
I recently read that new understandings of time and space have changed our concept of God. At first it went right over my head. Duh! Then, I slowly realized that space exploration has taught us the vastness of the universe. The universe ever expanding away from us is God unfolding in the glory of the cosmos. God is no longer up there and out there. The old paradigm of a white-bearded Father figure sitting on a throne up in heaven just does not work.
God is bursting forth continually in creation which is the primary and first revelation of God’s flaring forth. Teilhard de Chardin had it right. He was just a little ahead of his time. God is not up there in heaven. God is incarnate in creation. God is incarnate in us as our deepest reality and yet—before you burn me at the stake for pantheism—let me add that God is also beyond all. It is technically panentheism—God in all = incarnation.
In the fullness of time, God became incarnate in the Word made flesh. God is now among us in a new and personal way. Thomas Merton, 20th century monk and spiritual writer, centered his contemplative focus on Jesus incarnate. Central to Merton’s thought is Jesus emptied out for us:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, came human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11, The Message translation, emphasis added)
Like Jesus, we are to pour ourselves out for others. The Risen Jesus through the power of the Spirit dwells within us. Abba God is lifting us high. It is not all about moi. It is about us living in communio through the power of the incarnate Christ now risen.
Merton’s study of Eastern Orthodox theologians taught him that Jesus became human so that we might become divine. By virtue of Jesus’ presence within the depths of our being we are being divinized. We are the Christ.
Take time out this season and consider the reason for the season—Jesus came human and we share now in his divinity. We are becoming more and more each day the Christ who lives incarnate in the depths of our very being.
As I pondered this in a half-awake state during the night—I doubt it was a biblical dream but who knows?—I thought of the Hindu word Namaste. Various translations are given but I prefer, “The divine in me greets to divine in you.” This IS Christmas! Merton would have loved the incarnational ecumenical thrust of this Hindu word because he saw that all religions were more alike than different.
The divine in me honors the divine in you. Christmas and Incarnation is about recognizing the divine in one another. We are becoming Christ incarnate as we grown into deeper communion with Abba God.
All too often we are not “Christmasy” incarnational. We fail to recognize the divine in one another. Think of how much less contentious our country, and indeed, our world would be if we lived the incarnation by recognizing the divine in one another. No, we find fault. We point out shortcomings. We accentuate the negative. We create enemies so we can project our own shadows. We cast aspersions upon our religious and political enemies in our petty cultural wars. This makes Christmas and the incarnation a cosmic joke! We think Christmas is about political correctness and whether we can have manger scenes in town squares. We will never have peace on earth.
Paul got it. He understood incarnation, “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.” (Gal 3:18)
If Paul were writing this today, he would say, “There can be no division into Jews and Arabs, Christian or Muslims, slave and free, first world and third world, Chinese and Americans, male and female, gay and straight, Republicans and Democrats and Tea Party. We all are equal in the sight of God. We all share a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
When we encounter and greet one another in the mall, the grocery store or at the exchange of peace at Eucharist, think Namaste! If you really want to be incarnational “Christmasy” bold, fold your hands in a prayerful position and bow to the divine in the other! Greet the divine in the other. Find the divine in the other. Honor the divine in the other. Emmanuel—God with us—Namaste!