At the emerging community where I once served as pastor, current co-pastor Diane Brandt has created a banner that affirms the words of German mystic Meister Eckhardt, “We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always seeking to be born.” Listen once more: God is always seeking to be born! God is seeking to born in us right where we are. This could be the mantra of emerging and life-affirming Christianity as well as the Christmas season.
God is not far off. God is near, and moving within us every moment of the day. The stable and manger, and the star of wonder are not anomalies, but everyday realities. Jesus is born in Bethlehem and being born in us moment by moment. We don’t need the miracle of a supernatural virgin birth, an immaculate conception, or a planetary rescue operation, but we do need the miracle of embodying God’s love right where we are. Emerging faith, life-transforming spirituality, is about opening our senses to divinity whether in multisensory worship, protesting injustice, playing with a toddler, caressing our beloved, writing a poem, sharing a holiday meal, or enjoying a sunrise. God is sensational, with love that is always incarnational, taking flesh in Bethlehem and seeking to be born in our lives this very moment.
This doesn’t diminish the uniqueness of the birth of Jesus, but opens us to his birthing in our lives. God is always uniquely revealing Godself. In a special moment, God gave breath to a child, born of Mary and Joseph, but revealing from his conception and first cries the light of the world, whose star hovers over Bethlehem but also the Persian home of magi and continents unknown to the Jews in the first century. This star still hovers overhead in Palestine, Israel, Washington DC, and in every suburb and village, reminding us that the word is made flesh in Jesus the Christ and Healer, and in the Christ seeking to born in us. This is truly the meaning of divine omnipresence: God is present everywhere, in every birth, and in every moment of transformation. “When did we see you?” asked the faithful. And, God responds, “In everyone – most especially, the hungry, thirsty, unemployed, marginalized, and refugee.”
I believe in the Incarnation. I believe that something unique and life-transforming happened in the birth of Jesus. This was not contrary to the regular laws of causation, but rather reflects the deepest energy of creation, the very intensity of the birth of birth of the universe some fourteen billion years ago.
The world is always more wonderful than we can imagine – the whole earth is full of God’s glory, permeated with spirit, and not a one dimensional tightly wound environment that precludes adventure and surprise. As an early Christian leader proclaimed, the glory of God is a person fully alive. In the incarnation, God was fully alive in the call and response which enlivened Mary, Joseph, and their wee child. They responded to God’s unexpected movements in their lives – bringing forth wonders that pushed them beyond their comfort zones to become partners in God’s holy adventure. They became fully alive, contributing to the unique divine presence in Jesus, by their responses to their angelic visitors. There was no “purpose-driven predetermination” in Jesus’ birth but a lively quantum leap of divine-human partnership that gave birth to possibilities that shape our lives at Christmas and every day. (For more on a creative-affirmative alternative to Rick Warren, see Bruce Epperly, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Upper Room Books.)
This morning, as I write these words, I am awaiting the birth of two babies. My wife has gone off to a local hospital to support and coach a Bhutanese mother, the young wife of a man our church sponsored through Church World Service. In less than six months, we anticipate the birth of another child, our second grandchild. We wait with hope in both cases, and commit ourselves to Christ’s birth in unique ways in two families we cherish. We seek to embody care for the earth – the earth beloved by God – that will enable these and other children to live in a world where there is sufficient food, shelter, education, freedom, and environmental well-being for them to embody holiness in their time and place.
Eckhardt asks, “What does it matter if God is always being born, if it doesn’t happen to me?” So, let Christ emerge this year in your village, in your heart, and in your spirit. Let something born as you say “yes” to the birth call of this present moment, revealed in your partner, friend, child or grandchild and embodied in a refugee, undocumented worker, homeless one, or enemy. God is here, the word is made flesh, being born anew in you and all the world. By your openness let God be fully alive in you! Merry Christmas!