Tuesday, December 19, 2017

thinking about christmas eve.

Thinking deeply about my final Christmas Eve message this week. The liberation
theologian, Leonardo Boff, once wrote:

How does one understand that this man, with his individual and datable history, is at one and the same time God? What greatness, sovereignty, and profundity must he not have revealed and lived in order to be called God? What does “God” mean now? What sort of human being is he, that we can make such an assertion about him? What does the unity of the two – God and man – concretely signify in a historical being, one of our brothers, Jesus of Nazareth? This is one of the central facts of our faith that sets Christianity apart from other religions. Once Christianity affirms that a man is at the same time God, it stands alone in the world. We are obliged to say it: This is a scandal to…all the religions and pious peoples of yesterday and today who venerate and adore a transcendent God: one that is totally other, who cannot be objectified, a God beyond this world, infinite, eternal, incomprehensible, and above everything that human beings can be and know.

Boff doesn't claim as some do that this religion is better - it isn't - but it is unique. Yes, there are fundamental similarities in our respective calls to justice and compassion. And yes other faith traditions have their unique insights into the holy, too. But the revelation of the incarnation - the Feast of the Nativity - is that God is with us in our shared humanity. Of course there is a transcendent dimension to the sacred, but the scandal of the Christian tradition moves beyond generalities to the particulars of compassion and justice in a unique way.

The photograph of a sculpture outside St. Martins in the Fields in London makes this clear. So does Jean Vanier's insistence that the way God comes into our humanity is through cherished vulnerability: God comes to us in a tiny package. And God is nourished through the very real flesh of his mother's breasts. This graphic recently posted on Face Book kicks up the incarnational truths of Christmas.  There is littleness and earthiness, vulnerability and intimacy, the invitation to cherish, nourish and change. I still don't have my quiet and tender Christmas Eve homily yet. But I've been walking around with these ideas for a few days praying they might lead me somewhere faithful.

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