Friday, 24 December 2010

What Christmas Means To Me

Just as my town is to this house, just as this country is to this town, just as this world is to this land; just as the sun is to this planet, just as this galaxy is to our sun just as the universe is to a galaxy, so is God to all the universe.  He is so much greater than all we see here, though all that we see is undoubtedly within him, carried safely within him.  Still, though so vast he holds the Universe in the palm of his hand and supports and sustains all that is; though he alone is great and holy and eternal, and the world is a small and sinful place; still he came and was born to a young girl, in a stable where only animals saw his birth.

God is greater than everything, yet he made himself almost nothing, entirely weak, entirely dependent on human hands, so the world may be filled with God.  We see so many Christmas scenes, so many little statues of the nativity, that it is easy to forget what it really is.

Throughout  history man has attempted to reach out to God to know him and be as One with him, to understand the most fundamental meaning and value and purpose of all existence.  To this end we have tried everything through the ages. We have built vast churches, temples, cathedrals and shrines; made beautiful Art, sculptures, paintings, murals; wrote songs, chanted, written classical symphonies and oratio, hymns, carols, strummed guitars and rock worship; formulated liturgies, services and prayers; given sacrifices, performed rituals, lived as hermits, prayed, fasted from meat, for a time, until the point of death; wore hair-shirts, sackcloth and ashes, habits of wool, elaborate robes; burnt incense and shared bread, kept vigils, entered trances, whipped ourselves into frenzies, meditated for years on end; danced and sung, begged, kept silence, built great institutions, spanning continents and centuries, held laws and statutes, raised leaders, revered prophets and saints, told stories and legends, crafted myths and philosophies; read books and nature, wrote and studied books after books for lives after lives, preached, taught, spoken and listened and listened, argued and argued; done works of charity and love, taken poverty and hoarded great wealth, travelled vast distances and changed the world, fought wars and conflicts, taken life and given life and given up our own life, loved and hated, hoped and trusted and clung on for lifetime after lifetime over century after century.

But for all our learning, studying, writing, speaking, listening and arguing we know and comprehend all but nothing of the depth of God who is infinite Truth. For all our praying, sacrificing, worshipping and ritual we barely brush the edges of his greatness.  For all our meditation, prayer, fasting and solitude we barely approach his essence.  For all our good deeds and charity and sacrifice to be holy we only come to realise how perfect, how Holy, how infinitely far beyond he truly is.  For all our mysticism, philosophy, frenzies and ceremony we barely glimpse him as through a thick mist.

Our greatest efforts could barely begin to approach God.  But God came down and was born as a tiny baby in a lowly stable.  And the fullness of Almighty, Infinite God was held tight in the arms of a virgin girl, and Invisible and Unseen God was seen clearly by those human eyes, and God who requires nothing from us received everything he needed in milk and warmth; And God who can not be known was known by those there. All of God who encloses the whole Universe was enclosed in her arms; God who no one fully knows was known by her, and raised by her and taught and loved by her.  And he grew and he walked amongst us and we could see him and touch him and speak to him face to face, and we knew him. And he taught us in plain words and ate with us and was there, and he was our friend.

God descended from his distance and came into the world as a man, and the whole world is sacred, because the Lord God experienced it.  This earth of matter is holy, because God descended into it.  Because it is a created thing and still God grew up from within it like a plant from the withered ground.

Without a doubt the two greatest deeds of God are the birth of the Universe and the birth of Christ.  The first creation and the new creation.  And the One Creation is much like the Other.  Through the Creation of the Universe we know of God at all, as St Paul says, "the whole world sings of the glory of God".  In the new creation we know of God perfectly, as his perfection enters a damaged world.  The Universe is vast and great and magnificent, but in new creation God,who is greater and vaster than all the Universe, is born into it, made himself enclosed and surrounded by it, as the tiniest part of it.

One Life grew and lived and loved and died and rose again.  So we are all reflected and sanctified by the life of Christ, who shared our body.  One Life, greater than all life, is born among us.  We who are beings may see Being, asleep in a manger, and we who love, may hold Love in our arms, a babe in a stable by an inn.

Christ the Son was born beautiful and grew and lived in love, and for a long time he was silent, but in later days he spoke out, but he died, but the Father raised him to greater glory, transformed into eternity, and he sits at the right hand of the Father. Like this the Universe was created, beautiful, and grew in beauty, but for a long time it was silent. Now in these later days have awoken the voice of the children of God among it.  But in the end it will come to destruction, but it will not pass away, but be transformed by God in to greater glory, to dwell, sanctified by him and with him and in him forever.  He gave us the sign of Christ, so we may know, and never fear again.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of Grace and Truth”

The Universe is a mystery, but God upholds it and secures it and sustains it.  And God is wrapped around everything that is and holds it within him, yet still he came within and so was held within himself.  God the Son who is beyond all Understanding  was sustained within the World, and the World is contained and sustained within and by the Father. And yet still more, for the Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son, so the whole forms an eternal cycle and the Universe is held between and shot through with Godhood within and without and both and again. And so we have a Wonder containing a Mystery containing that same Wonder, again and again.

And that is the most beautiful thing in the world.



Merry Christmas.

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