Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Why every single day is Christmas


In the beginning was the word (John 1:1) because speech stands for creative wisdom, as in let there be light” (Gen 1:3). In the beginning was creative wisdom, it became flesh, and your flesh.

If it is tempting to see evidence of creation as random, difficult, meaningless, look deeper, as Franciscan Giovanni Giocondo wrote in this letter on Christmas Eve 1513.

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.  There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! 

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.  And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look! Life is so generous a giver.

But judging its gifts by their covering, we cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Only remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendour, woven of love by wisdom, with power. 

Welcome it, grasp it, and touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. 

Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.  Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. 

Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

Giovanni’s letter says fleshy problems are in wisdom.  It may be tempting to think of Angels as irrational, but as a renaissance man, he looked to the Greek fathers of the faith, philosophers, who valued reason and had their own idea of evolution, the 'hierarchy of being'.

Stones, plants, animals, and angels, humans, and creative wisdom emanated from One source, the Good, God. This is why the Bible says in him all things were created: visible and invisible, he is before all things, in him all things hold together (Col 1;16).   

No-one has seen God (John 1;18) but a mysterious invisible whole, here to teach us. Teach us what?  What Giovanni said...
 
As a child, on Christmas day, I didn’t get presents until I had been to hospital. What transfixed me wasn’t nurses, or Mickey Mouse painted windows.  My Dad was a paediatrician, as others opened presents, played with toys, slept, over-ate, drank, watched tv, I peered transfixed into the incubators on the special care baby unit.

Tiny babies fighting for their lives had hands like birds’ claws, oxygen tubes in tiny nostrils, and knitted hats on tiny skulls. Year by year, the idea of God as a baby was given form in these premature, fragile, injured lives. Some of them had been injured by people, because people, as confused animals, can be disappointing and very difficult. The world disappoints us.

My Dad had to provide evidence of abuse in court cases resulting in children taken into care, and I eventually ended up working with the abused myself, and the abusers, often the same person, since we all learn what we experience. 

In his difficulties, Jesus experienced a sense of intimacy with, not distance from, the creative wisdom of God. In him, and us, creator and the creation can become one. 

The Church disappoints, I disappoint.  And yet, if we go a little deeper, the I who looked into the incubators is not the I who writes this. There are similarities over time, but one 'I' is years older than the other 'I'.

There are processes that we call 'I', like perceptions, feelings, personality traits, physical parts, hands and heart, but 'I' as a continuing thing with which we all identify is a fiction we all construct, a mask, a role, which is what persona means. 

We are interdependent. None of us at all are given a lead in the cosmic drama. If we cannot see this, there will be pathological desire and anxiety to preserve the fiction of 'I', rather than the Holy Spirit of courage, compassion, creative wisdom, forgiveness.

Despite being abused and tortured, Jesus experienced a sense of intimacy with, and not distance from, God, and we can.

We don’t have to be good enough, which is what grace is. We fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3;23) but creative wisdom enters into the physical, to embrace, to redeem, and to heal it from within it all.  If we can only realise this, everyday is already Christmas.

Reifying 'I', we think it is less weird to do only a bit of God, to keep a safe distance, like lighting a firework. This doesn’t make any of us human, but sub human, because it cuts us all off from One creative wisdom.

Working in hospitals, people told me they didn’t believe in God, so I asked them to describe God, and I agreed. God isn’t a man in the sky, separate, angry, abusive, indifferent, violent, punitive, God suffers these things, and spoke to us by the Son, through whom he created all the worlds. (Hebrews 1 1-2).   

There are many worlds, and inner worlds. More galaxies beyond the milky way than there are stars within it, every one of them like an island universe with billions of suns. God, an inner self, boundless timeless and invisible, does save us from mortality. 

This is why, in the film Dr Zhivago, to the question, 'Are there things in the world that claim our fidelity?', he answers “Very few.  We ought to be faithful to immortality, which is another name, a richer name, for life, and to Christ.” Why Christ?  Because once upon a time a maiden in silence and in secret gave life to a child who gave the world the miracle of life, that is, your life. 

Don’t think only your difficult little life is life. You are not just human, you are divine, the word became flesh means the real you in creative wisdom is lifted up inside the divine who did not avoid the messy, birth, failure, vulnerability. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich too (2 Cor 8;9). Today, you really are.

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