Today we celebrate the first Christmas.
We stand with our ancestors and mark the turning point when we turn towards the light. The darkest night has passed and now it is downhill towards spring. New life is coming.
I long for it in the same way as a man for his distant lover – who avoids looking at her photograph lest the seperation become too much to bear…
It is too soon to think about spring. First we must live fully in the season of waiting, firm in the hope that even in midwinter, we can dream of seedlings and spring lambs.
I use the word ‘Christ’ to describe this season unashamedly, not because I am trying to replace all those thousands (tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?) of years during which humans made ritual around the solstace. I am not trying to redeem or convert. Rather I would stand in the midst of the teaching of Father Richard Rohr, as he encourages us to think about ‘the Christ’ in a totally different way.
Everything you need to know about the Christ is already written in creation.
But this teaching, emerging from a long line of thinkers starting with St Francis of Assisi and the Scottish 13th C theologian Duns Scotus, does a lot more than co-opt creation as a pretty backdrop for our narrow religious prejudices. Rather it proposes something that I encountered as a profound soul-deep yes.
What Rohr describes is the difference between the historical figure of Jesus Christ and the Christ, which is another name for everything. The Christ is the means through which all things have their being, the substance, the molecular, mycelial power behind the particles that make all of the universe. The thing through which all things ‘live and move and have their being’.
There are other names for the Christ, but this grand-scale way of describing the life force that holds everything together, set against the context of kindess and love, breaks me down into awe (and often tears when it hits home.)
So, this first Christmas, before the clamour of the more modern one hits us like a train, I am going to think bigger – much bigger. Not because I am dismissive of the stories of Jesus the man, even Jesus the incarnation of the Christ.
I am going to remember that I am woven together from the substance of the Christ, and consider how this changes the responsibilities I carry into the world. Above all, it seems that the reponsibiity is towards love.
The great Becoming
How small we made you.
How constrained by our constraints.
We wore you like a lapel badge,
Pocketed you like a personal passport, then
Raised you at our borders like a flag.
We locked you in the pages of
Our Book, then threw away the key.
But how we worshipped you.
How we pointed at you with steeples.
You asked us to follow you, to
Give away our second shirts, but instead
We made one million icons, each one framed in gold.
We swayed and raised our own egos, singing love songs
Not to you, but to idealised versions of ourselves.
How is it that still, you love things by becoming them?
How was it that this brown-skinned man with the heart of a woman
Took upon herself another name for everything, so we could
Encounter her in all these beautiful things and bleed with her when she
Lies broken? And just when all seems lost, she whispers still –
See, I am making all things new.