God’s Continual Emergence – Christmas Ongoing

Much of our religious language, especially around Advent and Christmas, reflects a first century world-view.  We repeatedly hear phrases like “God sent…,” or “Jesus came down…,” or “God intervened…,” or other similar descriptions.  The language makes it sound like Jesus was an alien from outer space or some such thing; an ET who just dropped in for a while.

Of course, the Bible is filled with these kinds of descriptions, but we must remember the Bible reflects a world-view of 2000+ years ago.  God was thought to be “up there” just beyond the dome of the sky.  We should know better, as we are aware the sky is not a dome beyond which is the separate abode of God.  We know the sky is part of the infinity of space.

It amazes me how we continue to literalize the images and language of scripture which are clearly allegorical and metaphorical.  By literalizing that which is not meant to be taken literally, we transport the first century world-view into our reality and struggle to adopt it as the authentic world-view.  The result is we end up living in cognitive dissonance, that is, a state of trying to hold contradictory values together at the same time, specifically the ancient and contemporary world-views.  To relieve the stress of dissonance requires acceptance of one view and rejection of the other, or a strong denial system towards the dissonance itself.

For me, Jesus was not a divine being dropped in from another reality.  The apostle Paul said that Jesus was “born of a women.”[i]   Paul’s implication is that Jesus was a human being like you and me.  Jesus emerged out of the human experience, “born of a woman.”  The essence of the incarnation is that God emerged through the human Jesus.  Lacking the language and world-view to express that reality, the ancients used the only language available to them to describe and proclaim that which they experienced in Jesus.

The real point here is that incarnation means that God and matter have been mysteriously merged, coalesced and united.  God is present in matter, and matter is filled with God – even the matter called you.  Franciscan mystic Richard Rohr describes the incarnation as the “spiritualization of all matter.”[ii]

On the one hand, we must humbly acknowledge that all language is finally left lacking when we speak of God.  Why? Because God is transcendentalways more than any image or description we can ever conjure up.

On the other hand, the incarnation means that God is also imminent, present in the very fiber of life, every atom and cell and every human being.  All matter and life are sacred.  When one lives with this world-view, God can be seen and experienced anywhere and everywhere.  I call it God’s Continual Emergence.  Many of the Christian mystics down through the ages have lived with the spiritual sensibilities to see God’s Continual Emergence in all of creation.

The older I get, the more convinced I become that when Jesus challenged his disciples with the numerous imperatives of love that he did, he was speaking deep into the depths of their beings to the God-Presence that lived within them of which they were not even aware.   He was calling forth the God-Presence from within which always expresses itself in the forms and expressions of love as his life testifies.   This is why, I believe, Jesus’ imperatives were not experienced by those early disciples as a new external law to obey, but an energy and reality that generated authentically from deep within.   I think this is, to a great extent, what they meant by the word “grace.”  Another way to express it might be to say that Jesus continually wakes me up to the God-Presence that lies within.

For me, this is the deeper meaning of Christmas and incarnation.  If Jesus dropped-in externally sort of like an alien being from somewhere else, I struggle to identify with him and even find meaning in it.  But if Jesus was a human being, “born of a woman,” through whom God emerged, then I can live with the hope and expectation that Christ is present and calls forth from within me the same love that we see in his life; that his life and mine become so mingled that his life is mine and my life is his.  God’s Continual Emergence – Christmas Ongoing!  

“Oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”

[i] Galatians 4:3

[ii] I heard Richard Rohr discuss this at a seminar I attended.

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