Can you recall your favorite Christmas celebration? Perhaps you were gathered with loved ones in your home. The woodsy scent of pine, the soft twinkle of Italian lights, and the gentle chorus, O Come Let Us Adore Him, filled the room. Christ’s enchanting love spilled into your heart as your eternal soul overflowed with joy.
Imagine also that first Christmas centuries ago with Joseph and Mary. The manger filled with straw. The oxen and lambs’ bodies warming the cool stable air. Wise men and shepherds gathered staring awestruck at the birth of the infant Jesus—the one they hoped and prayed was the Savior of the world. Love poured forth from heaven as dancing starlight touched humankinds’ hearts and minds.
It’s easy to see the Word Made Flesh in joyous Christmas celebrations. It’s wise and noble to adore Christ as we recall the virgin birth at the Nativity. It’s inviting to look forward to the second coming of Christ that scripture predicts will unfold at the end of time.
But how do we find Christ when we’re alone or scared on Christmas day? Is the Word Made Flesh when our holiday celebrations are filled with bickering, when old wounds scrape our hearts with bitter scars, when loved ones and co-workers fight over money and power?
In times of grief and despair, we might be tempted to proclaim that Christ isn’t coming this year. Love has died. Fear and evil have won.
In troubled seasons of life—whether at Christmas or any time—we must dig deep and remember we are called to be the embodiment of love, to bear Christ’s love into the world. To turn the other cheek, let go of old wounds and betrayals, and say “Yes” with Mary to the Divine within our souls.
Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes writes:
“If Christ is to be born
it will not be in a manger:
that was long ago.
Now it will be in you.
You yourself: be Christ;
bear love into this world.”
This Christmas, my family—all twenty—will gather for a wonderful celebration. We will all be together for the first time in two years. And my heart will overflow with the love of Christ poured forth from the laughter and joy filling our home.
But outside our house, the gale winds of hurt and betrayal blow snowstorms of blistering pain around my life. I feel like David—a fugitive—being pursued by Saul. Ones I had trusted and mentored over the years have turned their backs on me and point angry fingers of false blame at my heart. I am tempted to scream, “Where are you, God? Where are you, Christmas?”
But Pastor Steve’s words remind me I must live from the inside out—not the outside in.
I must do the daily inner work of sitting in quiet meditation, seeking wise counsel, and listening for words from the Holy Spirit to whisper within my soul, so I can discover how God’s inviting me to grow. I must let Christ touch the inner hurt within my heart, work on my shortcomings, have compassion for those stuck in survival-mode, and let the Word Made Flesh be conceived in me—again and again. I must turn the other cheek, forgive, and listen deeply for God to guide and heal my world-weary soul.
Jesus will come this year, but only if we say “Yes” to the Divine within us—only if we let the Light of the World shine in our hearts so we can be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ.
I pray Pastor Steve’s words as a mantra to open my sometimes-cold heart and dare to believe that what is holy may be conceived in me—that the eternal Word may be made flesh in my flesh.
I cannot do that without God’s grace. And so, this Christmas, I will sit within the cave of my heart and, like David, who sought God’s guidance and praised the Creator in the midst of life’s storms, I will lift my hands to heaven and continually sing this song of praise:
And in some mysterious way—call it grace or Christmas magic—I trust that Jesus will come this year in you and in me—as we open our hearts and let Christ be born in us.
—brian j plachta
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