Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
-Christina G. Rossetti
It seems, regardless of Faith tradition, we are all reminded of this big umbrella of holiday time that is overwhelmingly Christmas. For every Santa Claus, there seems to be a manger. Regardless of what you say you believe or don’t believe, the tides of Christmas are not going anywhere. They have been with many of us since the beginning of our lives. If you are a westerner, even the most devout Muslim, orthodox Jew, or dyed in the wool Atheist, you still know Christmas. Most learn that an angel appeared unto Mary, “bringing her tidings of great joy to all people.” We learn that another Angel appeared to Joseph warning him of danger, and that a star was seen in the East. Some learn that the wise men that traveled to the star tricked King Herod, who subsequently gave an order to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem. But what people seldom learn is the meaning of “unto you a child will be born, and you shall call him Emmanuel.”
Emmanuel means god is with us. Imagine for a moment what it might be like to lean into the idea that god could instead mean love? Emmanuel, Love is with us. Emmanuel has nothing to do with church, guilt, sin, or judgment. It has nothing to do with the Jesus many come to learn. Simply put, god with us, Love with us. When I reframe the Christian Christmas story though the lens of love, I no longer find myself at odds with the seasons. I do not feel disempowered, but rather I see a nativity, and instead of thinking that a savior is born, I think Love is born.
Oh come oh come Emmanuel… ransom captive Israel, the carol goes. I have often wondered what could the ransom be in a modern world? What is the currency to ransom people? It is still Emmanuel, Love is with us. Love is the currency, all lovely, a love divine. What if for a moment we looked at each other the way we look into the eyes of children, with love? If one man could ransom one captive nation with love, imagine the power of every child in the world? Feeling love, and knowing what love is, believing that love is divine: this is what I mean when I say Emmanuel. God with us. Love with us.
What inspires me about this beloved time of year is the invitation to look at the faith that seems least like my own, and in their most holy time, welcome a new truth and experience. That truth is love. When I enter into the presence of my most sacred self, what I know is love. Love is the currency is desperately needed in these times of uncertainty. I have no faith in a child who would become a prophet that empowered patriarchy, but I do take comfort in love: that we are all born into this Love, the currency of peace. This is the reminder I get at Christmastime. Love is with us, a Love all lovely, a Love Divine.