Christmas – a babe in a manger, candlelight, Jesus’ birthday – all images that convey meanings of the season. Yet we tend not to realize that, in some real ways, when we celebrate Christmas we celebrate our birthday and the birth of our child. At Christmas we’re not just mere bystanders in Bethlehem, but participants in a cosmic drama.
The drama starts with a Mad Lover – God. Christians understand God to be a tightly knit community of three persons who give and respond so totally to one another that they really are one. They call that Love. God, the incomparable lover, thrives on total intimacy. For God there are no boundaries.
Someone who lives to love never can love enough, so they continually strive to expand their circle of relationships. God does this by creating otters, rocks, stars, trees, and…us. An early tradition in Christian theology, which continues today, holds that God planned all along to become “flesh” by becoming a human being, someone we call Jesus. In other words, knowing that finite creation could never respond as intimately as God would like, God decided to make this possible by becoming part of it, by joining the infinite with the finite.
It’s Our Birthday, Too
Normal human conceptions require the contributions of both a male and a female. Jesus’ conception required the contributions of the creation and the divine. God’s creating the world we love, whether through evolutionary processes or otherwise, enabled God eventually to have a Mary he could ask to join him in creating such a creature.
This union led to something new – the “firstborn of creation,” Jesus. Jesus’ birth started creation off on a new path that, God promises, ultimately will lead to the messianic peaceable kingdom – one where the wolf will lie down with the lamb, where suffering and sorrow will be no more. Therefore, Christmas celebrates the birth of a new creation. To the extent that we wish to be part of that new creation, it’s our birthday, too.
Family and Births
We are part of the family of creation that gave birth to Jesus. When a new baby arrives to a couple, the grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, and far-flung relations all rejoice because in many ways the child is theirs, too. Because Jesus joined our family of creation (and of humanity in particular), Jesus also is our child.
Similarly, when a couple gets married each new spouse enters the other’s family. They get incorporated into the web of relationships that formed their spouse. By God’s ‘marrying into” our family of creation we in turn have become part of God’s family. Christmas celebrates our becoming brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters, of God.
So, when we hear Christmas carols in the mall or admire manger scenes on lawns, we might pause for a moment to reflect that this isn’t something that just happened (or happens) to us. We’re not onlookers at someone else’s spectacle. Rather, at Christmas we celebrate our birthday and our child being born. We revel in our creation family celebration of birth and renewal.
May we all, whatever our beliefs, find new life at this special time of year. Have a wonderful Christmas.
Center for Religion and Environment at Sewanee: The University of the South