At the heart of the Christmas story is a child, a divine child. Does that mean the story is only about that one child in Bethlehem or does this point us to a realization that there is a child in us always seeking to be born , to be recognized?... to give us a much needed attitude toward life, love and other humans and even toward nature? The symbol of the birth of a child is full of meaning and potential. We know a literal child can change our world and perhaps the child in us is meant to change our world even more. Wouldn't to live out the child in us be to live the meaning of Christmas all the time?
|Mary as she realizes the baby is in grave danger.|
Most ancient people whose legend has risen to the status of saint, god or resulted in the beginning of a new religion have had stories evolved of their special and miraculous birth. Some mythological stories include the infant barely escaping early death. Babies Moses and Jesus are only two examples. Some best scholars believe the story of Jesus' escape from death was included by Jewish Christians decades after Jesus' death to show him as even pgreater than Moses was for the Hebrews.
Of course the author of Matthew, the only place the story is told, makes no claim to have been present at Jesus' birth. Most likely much of the story came from the early church's attempt to explain the unexplainable impact of Jesus' adult life on his friends and followers. Jesus no doubt was a person who was fully connected to the Spirit of God. As such the explanations of him had to be explained in Spiritual language, language of the heart, empowering symbols like a virgin birth and the baby being pursued by a murderous king.
This does not make the story one of any deceit but one that truly comes from the source of all spiritual revelations, from the hearts and creative imaginations of sincere believers so from God. It must speak of discoveries we can make about our most inner selves. If taken that way, we can use the rich symbols to see the truths spoken of are just as true now as then. Otherwise the interesting story is left with us as a claim of literal history and can fail to engage our hearts but only our heads. Such things as the divine child being born in the human heart never change. The Christmas story appeals to the active child-likeness that is already in us all, though it easily gets lost and pushed aside.
Let's notice a few of the dynamics that might help us respect our own inner child as we enter a new year.
I. There are dangers in the world that the child part of us knows nothing about. So a child does not fear or hate or negatively discriminate. But also hopefully the child has adults around it that will keep the child safe as the child explores fearlessly and wondrously the magnificent world around it.
Baby Jesus could have no concept that the most powerful person around wanted to kill him. Ones childishness cannot conceive of being rejected , much less being resented for being itself or of anyone wishing to harm her.
After my mother died My dad moved my bunk bed into his room, perhaps for his own comfort as much as mine. I was glad to be there but he snored terribly. I asked for a set of earplugs rather than to not sleep there close to him. A child naturally is receptive and expects their presence to be adored and appreciated. They at first 'know' their value. Sadly such a spiritual way of being usually gets pushed out of people as they grow up.
The culture and religion that Jesus was born into was one of harsh condemnation toward ones considered as impure. This included the poor, ones of the wrong religious faith, the sick and lame, women, girl babies and especially any child born out of wedlock. Such a world of discrimination and rejection of certain ones makes no sense to the heart of any child including our own inner child's heart. That is why this inner child is always considered the savior of the world.
We would do well to get back in touch with our own divine child and help resurrect this innocent accepting way of viewing ourselves and others. From within us must be the only way where any real `peace on earth' comes from whether in family, community, nation or the world. So as adults we ought to assure our own inner divine child that we will always cherish and love them and protect them from outside forces that would seek to diminish or harm them.
II. A child easily accepts that the nature of life is to take many detours. Our adult mind wants to `cut to the chase' in life. We want the quickest way to everywhere. We want no real surprises that we don't plan ourselves. The word Detour is a very unwelcome road sign to most people. Jesus' family is pictured as having to take a very long detour, perhaps of months or years as they flee to Egypt. That took them to unexpected places and ventures. To an adult detours are an interference of life but to the child in us, it is part of the journey, the excitement, the learning. Without detours, including very unwelcomed ones, we would miss some of the most important parts of our lives. Our adult drive for security at all costs drives this child right out of our conscious and practical lives. A child lives with few exact expectations of themselves or of others. It is open to life and is present to help us to be also.
When traveling to AL from TN recently I purposely took the old highways- a longer trip but far more interesting than the quickest way. To a child life is all about the trip, not the destination. Interruptions turn out to be the most important and most spiritual parts of our life. The child in us is forever drawn to the `road less traveled' rather than the ways of convention and predictability. The child intuitively knows that this is the way of the spirit guided life.. The Christmas Story seeks to point us to our own child, not merely to an event two thousand years ago. This story is timeless and when heard correctly is always true.
The child believes and expects the world to receive them gladly as it should. Of course we adults know that life `cures ` us of such ideas in the most cruel ways. But the child in us does not give into that negative experience if it is given permission to stay true to itself. It keeps on believing and hoping, trusting. To lose that is to lose our child and to lose our spiritual life. What a tragedy. The adult Jesus weeps as he says that "those who seek to save their lives(that is deny or repress the inner child) will lose it , and those who lose their lives for this `good news' will find it."
Billy Joel's song `Second wind' is advice written to a young adult who has already gotten out of touch with their inner child. Hope is natural to a child but easily slips from an adult... Recall as you read these words that in the Gospel of John `wind and spirit' are use interchangeably in Jesus' conversation.
"Just like a boxer in a title fight. You got to walk in that ring all alone. You're not the only one who's made mistakes But they're the only thing that you can truly call your own. Don't forget your second wind. Wait in that corner until that breeze blows in..
But I survived all those long lonely days When it seemed I did not have a friend. Cause all I needed was a little faith So I could catch my breath and face the world again. Don't forget your second wind. Sooner or later you'll feel that momentum kick in." These are spiritual words from an unexpected place."
These thoughts may seem a long way from the Christmas story but in the world of the Spirit the most unusual connections are made. In fact through the lens of the Spirit all things of nature and certainly all people are connected from deep within. A cynical voice in us will say to these things, `This child within us stuff is just not how reality is. Get over it and back to reality'. But that is not the voice of the inner child who always sees many possibilities, not just one way to go that the adult focuses on. It is the creative impulse within us. The child will speak to us from the world of the Spirit and from the world of the Christmas Story. ... Not just 'once a year Christmas' but every day. The Christmas story comes to us from the ancient past and its purpose is to reawaken the divine child in us all and urge us to take that child seriously. May that child sleeping within each of us be `born in us' today. If it is even a little bit more, Christmas will have accomplished its real purpose.
BENEDICTION: May the joy and wonder of Christmas be in you as you travel the days ahead. May you know your truer purpose and better appreciate the crooks in the road. And may you occasionally touch the pure white calm from which every baby is born. Amen.