Christmas is Always

This is an article Kerry Walters, one of our participants, wrote for the Sunbury Daily Item on December 24. Kerry publishes a weekly column “Faith Matters.” His messages always speak to me. I hoped this one would do the same for you.

Come to think of it, read first a quote he posted on Facebook the previous week.

Bonhoeffer said, “God is in the manger.”

“No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged. …

“ Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever finally lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness. …

“And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly … God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger

Now Kerry:

“What does it matter that Christ was born long ago in Bethlehem unless he is born in me today? What does that birth avail, if it does not also happen to me? That it should take place in me is what matters!”

So said the German mystic Meister Eckhart back in the early 1300s. His words still ring true on this Christmas Day some 7 centuries later.

Each year, Christians around the word celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. It’s a day of joy and generosity that commemorates the breathtaking fact that God, out of sheer, unfathomable love, became human to reawaken us mortals to our own God-likeness. The Christmas message, liturgically repeated throughout the entire year in each and every celebration of the Eucharist, is that we share in the divinity of Christ because he humbled himself to share in our humanity.

This is what Christmas is all about: the Incarnational revitalization of humanity — and, indeed, the entire cosmos — through an outpouring of unconditional love.

What Meister Eckhart would have us remember is that this isn’t a one-off event that happened in the distant past. Just as the Christ-child incarnates God, so we’re called upon to incarnate the Christ-child in our daily lives, here and now. All of us, says Eckhart, are mothers of God, blessed with the joyful charge of renewing creation by carrying and birthing the Christ-child.

Christmas, in other words, is always. Christ’s birth is forever happening. God is perennially birthing in you and in me. Absent that, the Holy Day becomes simply an empty holiday kidnapped by retailers and pop musicians.

To birth Christ is to so internalize his spirit of love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness that we can offer it, freely and joyfully, as a year-round Christmas gift to others. But to do this, we have to empty ourselves, in imitation of God’s own self-emptying.

This requires from us the prenatal preparation of spiritual downward mobility, the shedding of our self-absorption, our need always to be right, always to get in the last word, to be the alpha dog. If we’re to conceive and bear the Christ-child, we need to create space in our spiritual wombs to receive and nurture him. “God expects but one thing of you,” Eckhart says, “and that is that you should come out of yourself and let God be God in you.”

Letting God be God in us enables us to see the world through Christ’s eyes and respond to it with Christ’s heart. In our ceaseless birthing of God — or what the apostle Paul referred to as a putting on of Christ, such that the egoistic me-me-me is replaced with the self-giving spirit of Christ — we grow ever more appreciative of the beauty of the world and the inherent lovability of all humans.

And when we look through Christ’s eyes and respond with Christ’s heart, we see that there are no others, no aliens, no immigrants, no strangers, because we are all children of the same God who himself was born a refugee; that even in the midst of imperial darkness there shines the divine beacon of freedom; that the angelic promise of peace and good will to all is built on the messianic vision of justice and compassion; that the good earth on which we dwell is to be cherished rather than exploited; that those who live in fear are to be comforted and protected; and that the humble birthplace of Emmanuel, God-with-us, recommends the spiritual value of voluntary simplicity so that the burden of material poverty endured by so many might be lessened.

This year has been one in which rancor, distrust and hatred were especially widespread. Yet despite that, we know that Christ has been alive in thousands and thousands of spiritual wombs, sometimes non-Christian ones, both here and throughout the world. There is a craving in each of us, which we can ignore but never totally suppress, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. This is the quickening of the Christ-child. There is a longing in us to say along with the prophet Isaiah, “Here am I! Send me into the world, O God, to be your eyes and your heart!” This is the Christ-child yearning to come forth into the world.

Remember that on this joyful day, and remember too that Christmas is always.

Kerry Walters pastors Holy Spirit American National Catholic Church with services in Lewisburg and Sunbury.

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  1. Mark Summers says:

    Yes, regarding fear, its definitely out of hand. I assert that your chances are still greater to die from bee stings plus lightning than from acts of terror.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that we should be so care-free as the lilies of the field. We already know all about gun deaths, etc. Europe now suffers in many ways from the mass uncontrolled entry of people from difficult to assimilate cultures. Social media adds fuel to even the smallest flames of frustration & hate. So the situation requires everyone’s attention and wise solutions. …easier said than done.

    Also the situation is different in Europe and in the US.

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