“To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11, NRSV.
There are so many ways to wreck a good story. In fact, we might as well call it Christmas Cancer for all that it has become in the last two millennia: grafted onto holiday trees from other traditions; the insanity of soldiers stopping to sing carols to the enemy across the front lines of WWI, resuming the fight in the morning; Santa Claus and Rudolph; enough lights to outshine a supernova; a worldwide binge and burp of the economy big enough to make us confident that Jesus has finally entered the temple and whipped, once and for all, the rogue dogs of evil empire.
What was born? Who was born? Lamb of God? For all our focus on blood sacrifice to grab salvation, Jesus might as well have been a 4-H calf, corn-fed and off to the fair, sold at auction to the highest bidder, the owner of the fanciest restaurant in the state.
What was born? Who was born? The birth narratives of Matthew and especially the iconic scene of the stable, manger, angels and star in Luke, are memorialized annually from the tiniest of crèche scenes reconstructed in the shell of a bird’s egg, to the bigger than life plywood or even living crèches that, despite our silly doublespeak laws about what religious freedom is or isn’t, stand in front of churches or town squares worldwide. God almighty, the things we fight about to avoid our own truth.
What was born? Who was born? Without doubt, a true Rose of Sharon, a balm in Gilead, a little Prince of Peace. And stories like these pasted onto the front of Matthew’s and Luke’s life narratives are effective “sit up and take notice” calls that here was a birth and a life of great importance.
Alas, we are so prone to losing ourselves in icons, drama and worship – anything to avoid personal responsibility.
The real birth of Jesus, good friends, took place in the silent stretch of nearly twenty years between Luke 2 and Luke 3, a gestation of learning and practice, of formation in the womb of wisdom and spirit. The real birth of Jesus was the birth of authentic Self, the hero’s/heroine’s journey to which we are all invited when we are silent in the presence and willing in spirit.
Luke tries to hammer this home with his genealogy, the long list of names at the end of the third chapter, almost entirely ignored by 2,000 years of Christianity, that ends, for both Adam (read “you and me”) and Jesus, with “Son (child) of God.” This genealogy marks the line of transition, the end of gestation. It is followed immediately by a baptism of grown-up spirit and the launch of Jesus into his brief public life of healing, bathed and swaddled in an honest and consistent call to peace, compassion, fairness and, most of all, the pleading invitation to each of us to join him in our own true birth.
What was born? Who was born? A human was born, like every human, who gained his life with the whisper of prana, the tickle and nudge of the breath of God, the life force of Creator/Spirit/Mind/Self. Born a human, you and me, under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
This one grew up. This one accepted that suffering (true love, while it may cast out fear, just as often draws fire) was the price of second birth, the true and human birth to capital “S” Self, the birth canal of silence, prayer and practice that bore him all the way to the Tree of Life.
How utterly astounding that for all the effort to tell us in symbol and story, for the repeated invitation of Jesus to each of us to grow up, to enter and to walk through the inevitable suffering of birth to true and mature life, we choose instead to worship the stories. We shield our eyes in the waving of palms and drown the voice in our din of praise. Truly, for the most part, we would rather kill the guide than hear the call, hear the invitation and embrace the path.
Born in you this day. Born in you this day, kind friend. The invitation to embrace the path, the invitation to second birth. Born in you this day. The call to accept, without judgment, the pain and suffering of growing up. The call to embrace and transform it with the practice of peace, of compassion for self and others. The call to be authentic sons and daughters of C/S/M/S, true birth under the Tree of Life.
Born in you this day. Let it be.
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