Tuesday, December 26, 2006

God is With Us

Last night at the packed Christmas eve service in Holy Joe's, the local Catholic church in Highgate, London, we sang "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Taking its cue from Isaiah, the son of God is here called Emmanuel rather than Jesus. Emmanuel means "God with us." And last night I truly understood that the divine had taken up residence within humanity. We are not mere matter in motion, lumps of accidental meat, but rather sparks of the divine light, the Master of the Universe having taken human form.

Christ is born of a young girl who willingly placed her fate in God's hand, and a human father descended from kings. They were denied a place at the table and forced to spend a night in a stable surrounded by the animals. Does this not also enoble all of creation as well? Shepherds on the nearby hills were greeted by an angel who brought tidings of "great joy." And what greater joy, to know that this life we live is not meaningless, is not simply the result of random atoms interacting, but contains a great purpose, to realize the divine, the Buddha-nature, the will of Allah within.

The birth of Jesus is a message to all that we are divine, sons and daughters of God, filled with the Holy Spirit that was given to us at the crucifixtion of Christ. We are in Christ and he is in us and we are all in God. And the good news, the Gospel, is that God, as the Qur'an says, is closer to us than our jugular vein. God, Christ, the Spirit is in the cave of our hearts, and can be heard not in a whirlwind but in a still small voice.

This was what came to me in London on a cool and foggy Christmas Eve, as we sang "hark the herald angels sing, glory to the new-born king." God is with us. Not confined to the heavens, not restricted to words in a religious text, not solely emboddied in a man or woman, or an avatar, but in each one of us. Christmas comes again to remind us to look, listen, and feel.

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