Becoming Human

The time is almost here. In just a few hours, the door to the Divine will swing open and God and all of heaven will burst into the world. If you stop and listen, just for a moment, you can hear the eternal harps in the distance as they approach our lives. Oh, sure, it’s happened before. But can’t you feel it? Doors opening, light flooding in, the earth filled with a new vision of peace eternal. Maybe, just maybe, tonight will be different.

The child in the manger is, of course, no ordinary child, but God Incarnate, the Word made flesh. God took the form of a human–just an ordinary human–a human like you and me–and was born and dwelt with us–still Divine, but in every way human (because you see God in all of God’s wisdom and all of God’s mystery can do that!) This Holy Incarnation was not meant to show us how to be Divine but, rather, how to be human. We see ourselves as “only human”, as if that excuses us from being who God called us to be. But the point is that God calls us to be human, made in the image of God (not like God, but in the image–a reflection of God, Incarnate). Jesus the Christ was born human so that we would know what being human means. And when, like Jesus, we become fully human, our hearts are filled with compassion, connecting us to one another; our eyes are filled with a vision of what God made this world to be; and our lives become holy as they are shaped in the image of God Incarnate. And we, even as humans, can reach out and touch the Divine now that God has burst forth into this world.

On the eve of Christ’s birth, let us open our lives to receive this holy child and open our hearts and our eyes that we might finally know what we are called to become–human, made in the image of God, a reflection and an incarnation of God here on earth. This Christmas, let Christ be born in us. This Christmas, let us become fully human.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
(Phillips Brooks)

The time is almost here. The door is opening and we see heaven beginning to pour in. Go forth and become human, become who God called you to be.

Grace and Peace on this Night of Nights,

Becoming Mystery

The way that God comes into our being is not something for which we can plan or project. Think about it–what if rather than always falling on December 25th, Christmas Day came on different days each year and we weren’t told until after the day that it had happened? How would you prepare for it then? Because, really, that’s the way the first Christmas happened. What if, in the midst of your preparing and your becoming, the time was once again fulfilled, whether or not you were ready? The way that God comes is a mystery, a time fulfilled rather than a time scheduled.

And this day before the eve of Christ’s coming finds us on a threshold between darkness and light, between human and divine, between reality and mystery. As we approach Bethlehem, tired from our journey, there are great hoards around us preparing to be counted. It is dusty and crowded and unwelcoming and we are tired of fighting the journey. But there, there in the north, are the quiet stirrings of a door that is beginning to open, a door through which heaven will pour and through which our humanity will somehow mysteriously taste and experience the Divine. How is this happening? “Because,” as St. John Chrysostom said, “God is now on earth, and [humanity] in heaven; on every side all things commingle. [God] has come on earth, while being fully in heaven; and while complete in heaven, he is without diminution on earth…Though being the unchanging Word, he became flesh that he might dwell amongst us.” [i]

The time is approaching when it will be fulfilled. And the only way for us to enter it is to become mystery and count ourselves among those who reside on that threshold between our lives as they are and the mystery that God holds for us.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.
(G.K. Chesterton)

So go forth and become mystery!

Grace and Peace,

[i] St. John Chrysostom, from “The Mystery”, in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Plough Publishing)

Becoming Light

In these last days of Advent, we experience both excitement and panic as we prepare for Christmas Day. But, again, Advent is meant to be more than just a precursor to Christmas Day. This is the time of preparation for Jesus’ coming, of course. But that means that it is also our time to become–become the one who receives God into our lives. The Gospel According to John begins with images of Christ as light coming into the world, enlightening all of the darkness on the earth until it is no more. And we, as children of the light, receive that light.

But what does that mean to receive light? We know that looking directly at light is uncomfortable and, at times, downright dangerous. Our eyes are not meant to look directly at something so bright. The light, then, is not merely something at which we look. That is not light’s purpose; otherwise it would be nothing more than a pretty decoration. The purpose of light is to illumine the darkness. We are not called to look at it, but to enter it. And in entering it, we become it, we become a reflection of that light for the world. It doesn’t take much–after all, one tiny light can wipe out absolute darkness–one light–your light. But the lights of many of us is what makes the world so bright. Jesus came as the light and calls us to become that light.

So go forth and become light!

Grace and Peace,

Becoming Christmas

The hours are ticking by. Christmas is almost here. I’ve finished the last of the wrapping, although the decorating that I’ve planned never got done. And I have LOTS of baking and cooking that needs to happen before the big day. I will say, though, that I’m having a wonderful and blessed Advent. I have walked through the waiting, the preparation, and the receiving. Oh, it won’t be perfect, but it will be. That’s what’s important. And now…these last few days…these are the days when we become–become mystery…become real…become human–these are the days when we become Christmas.

What does that mean–to become Christmas? Doesn’t Christmas happen all on its own? But, think about it, God did not come for God’s own edification; God did not come to give us some sort of excuse to once again bask in the commercializing of our lives; and God did not come to give us a holiday. No, the point is that God came and in it we become–we become who God calls us to be. We become Christmas–the Christ Mass, the living embodiment of Christ.

Christmas is about openness and receiving; Christmas is about freedom and giving; and Christmas is about love–of Christ, of each other, and of ourselves. Christmas is about finding our way. As a people, we wandered in the desert for years looking for our way; we listened to prophets and kings who told us where to go; and we waited for someone to give us a nudge in the right direction. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. This is the moment for which we have waited. But it is not about the moment. One cannot take the image of the nativity and freeze it in time. Because there is so much more to do–after all, we have to become Christmas!

Grace and Peace,


I am fascinated by the image of Mary in the Christmas story. I actually think that we Protestants underestimate her a bit. The Roman Catholics do a much better job of practicing a certain reverence toward Mary, the Mother of God. But those of the Orthodox tradition do it best. She is the subject of icons and other incredible images. She has hymns and liturgies and whole worship emphases. The Greek transliteration for Mary is Theotokos. In English, we just sort of loosely translate it as Mary, The Mother of God. But the literal interpretation of the title is “God-bearer”. What an incredible thing! What does it mean to be a “God-bearer”?

In our Western thinking, we either sort of accept the whole Virgin Birth phenomenon as part of our faith understanding or we fight it tooth and nail. To be honest, I guess I don’t get wrapped up in the whole thing. I mean…think about it…if you woke up tomorrow and there was proof that the whole virgin birth thing happened, what would it do to your image of God? And, conversely, if you woke up and some well-learned person had determined that there was proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was NOT born of a literal virgin, what would it do to your image of God? For me, nothing either way. God still came in the most mysterious and miraculous way. More importantly, God came. God came and burst forth into our humanity in a way that we never could have imagined. And God still came and opened the door that we might glimpse the eternal. Isn’t that enough?

But whether or not Mary was a literal virgin, whether or not God somehow bypassed the whole law of human conception and whether or not we can really explain what happened, God came. And Mary agreed beyond a shadow of a doubt to become a womb for God, to become a God-bearer. For me, the point is not the virgin birth itself; it is rather that God came to someone who was virgin–pure, not violated by pre-conceptions, not influenced by something that came before, open to receiving. Mary, the God-bearer, showed us what it means to bear God. It means to become virgin. It means to become a womb. It means to be ready to receive Christ in the purest form. From that standpoint, aren’t we all called to be “God-bearers”?

So go forth and be a womb, be a God-bearer.

Grace and Peace,

What Do You Want for Christmas?

“What do you want for Christmas?” When I was little, that was a big question. What do I want for Christmas? In the weeks before, I would painstakenly look at every TV commercial and every toy catalog that I could find so I would know the answer. And then we would go to the department store and stand in line to see Santa so that I could be sure and tell him what I wanted for Christmas. (Of course, everyone knew that the department store Santa was only a helper–after all, the REAL Santa was up at the North Pole directing things.) I was truthfully a little afraid of Santa. You had to step up to this massive Santa-throne and then sit on this strange man’s lap. He was always a little sweaty too. (But, of course, I guess if you had to wear a heavy fuzzy suit, big boots, fake beard, and sit under the photographer’s light for all those hours in the muggy Houston December, you’d be sweaty too!) But, the important thing was that Christmas morning, I would wake up and there it would be–the thing I wanted most, the thing my heart desired, the thing without which I thought I could not live–there it was under the tree!

As an adult, most of us don’t know how to answer that question. What do I WANT? Well, truthfully, I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess whatever you want to give me. Sure, there are things I’d like; a repaired and healthy economy so that everyone had a job would be nice; or, if you’re really asking, how about peace on earth? How about no hunger or homelessness? How about an innate respect for each other’s lives? How about everyone being aloud to do and be what God calls them to? Yeah…those would make nice gifts. But, sadly, they probably won’t be under the tree on Christmas morning. I think back to my childhood. It seemed that all I had to do was desire something in my deepest being and it would be there.

Why CAN’T we do that as adults? What do you desire in the deepest part of your being? It’s God. Deep in us, past all of the greed and fear and prejudices and pre-conceived notions in our lives, is a deep and abiding desire for God. And interestingly enough, when we desire God, God comes. There it is–the thing I want the most, the thing my heart desires, the thing without which I cannot live–God comes when we desire God. Won’t Christmas morning be a glorious thing?

So go forth and desire God!

Grace and Peace,

Free to Receive

The first step in being ready to receive is to open oneself to what is being given. This means that we have to prepare ourselves, ridding ourselves of our pre-conceived illusions of what we are going to get. Freeing ourselves to receive is a way of entering a true Sabbath, a resting, a pure openness to receive what one is blessed to receive. It probably seems odd to talk about Sabbath rest in the middle of Advent. But the Sabbath in its purest sense is but a taste of the world to come. So what, then, are we looking toward in this Advent season? The Advent season is a looking toward the ultimate Sabbath, the coming of God into Creation as it enters its very fullness, its very perfection, the very essence of what it is supposed to be.

The birth of Christ was the beginning, a taste of the world to come, the point at which we realized that the world was not meant to look like what we had planned. Our Advent journey prepares us to rebirth Christ in our own lives, it prepares us to taste once again what is to come, and to inch that much closer to the world that God envisions. But to do that we have to rid ourselves of our own illusions, we have to enter a Sabbath way of thinking, a Sabbath way of receiving God in whatever way God chooses to come. If we are not open to God’s coming, if we are not purely and wholly free of ourselves and ready to receive God into our lives, we will be looking for God to come into that place for which we have so carefully prepared and made ready and God, in perfect God-wisdom, will instead come through the back door of our hearts and settle in the dark grottos of our lives where only those who are poor in Spirit and humble in life and who crave the light with all their being will see. So, open your life to all of your life, because that is when God comes.

So go forth and be free to receive!

Grace and Peace,