For a number of reasons I have not been posting recently, but I hope I’m back now. It is amazing how writing and making art, and then seeing comments on the effort come in from next door and across my country and all around the world feels like intimate community, rather than public display! When I started this activity in September, I’m not sure what my aim was, but now I know that my purpose is to reveal my thoughts that go into a creative act- making art- hoping that this will give my readers ideas of their own, so that they follow through with creative acts, too. Some of you are already musicians, artists, writers, poets, and actors, among other creative professions and pastimes, and I hope that some little thing I say or make will inspire your own new insight-for-the-day.
Being a Christian and a North American mainline Presbyterian at that, I, along with kindred spirits, am in the midst of the season of Advent, the expectant waiting period of the church year. We participate in four Sundays of this waiting and hoping before the celebration day of the birth of Jesus is upon us. I think that Christmas was a late addition to the church, having started theologically as a rather minor concept- the birthday of Jesus- as opposed to a major concept- the death and coming-back-to-life of Jesus, or the lordship of Jesus. There are still some Christians who do not celebrate Christmas, and certainly not the holiday that has become a part of the North American consumer society.
I will show you the picture I drew for last year’s family Christmas card.
It is called “Nativity”. I like to put a new spin on old ideas to make myself and others sit up and think, not taking for granted things we believe we know. I made Mary the young Jewish teenager she likely was, and her husband, Joseph, the middle-aged fellow he likely was. Here is Mary, exhausted and uncomfortable after having given birth, falling asleep in a bit of an awkward position. Jesus, too, is starting to sleep off his own birth experience, lying on his mother’s abdomen. I made his little body egg-shaped as a foreshadowing of the new life for all people (like a bird hatching from an egg shell) that his existence represents. Joseph is left alone with his thoughts for the time being. I think he is asking “OK, so what now?” This is certainly the question I ask, and I’m always looking for answers.
People who are not Christian often think that Christians believe in three Gods, since we talk about “Father”, “Son”, and “Holy Spirit”. I doubt that you’d find a Christian anywhere who would say she believes in any but one God- the God! The confusion is perfectly understandable, since the only other experience we have with three names and three persons is John, Sally, and Jessica, or Malik, Tariq, and Adiba, clearly very separate entities. But, in the Hebrew scriptures and in the slightly more modern “New Testament”, God is invariably pictured as one God- and the very definition of ‘Love’. Wiser and more intelligent minds than mine have concluded that, since God was Love before the beginning of the world, God is Love now, and God will be Love after the universe is no more, God is Community- a community of three. Love does not really exist except in relation to another, since love is action, as well as patience, kindness, forbearance, and so on. There must be a beloved in order for a lover to exist. God can be understood as one God existing in three persons in an eternal dance of Love, no one person more important than another, and only existing together, never separately.
So, thinking about the story of a small baby who is God and human simultaneously makes me start thinking about the nature of God. Scriptures the world over often express God as powerful and mighty in the sense that some of us are powerful and mighty- full of force, able to bend others to our will. But, this picture of God deciding to be one of us- and as the weakest, smallest specimen of one of us!- in conjunction with being the Creator of all that is, certainly points to God’s love being the true power behind the universe. I know that, if I were God, I’d definitely be waving my magic wand around, fixing problems- voila!- and forcing solutions. But, then, I’m not Love. I am only a finite and imperfect human, able to understand force and coercion very well, but the ultimate power of love and compassion scarcely at all. So, in spite of all the long history of religious wars and the forcing of one set of people to believe what the people holding the guns want them to believe, in the Christmas story, God’s power is revealed as anything but a strong arm. This story turns our world upside-down. That which we think is weak prevails in the end. That which we think is impractical is the ultimate way. That which we think is trivial to the point of being embarrassing is most important. Because of our own short-sightedness, we rarely see who God really is. We see who we think God should be, who others think God is, or who we think we would be if we were God.
So, in contemplating the birth of a little Jewish boy in the backwater of a minor Roman province, I have an inkling that God is nothing at all like what most people say. I conclude that my only choice is to bow before the strongest non-force that ever can be, and to become a servant of Love in all humility. I wish a Merry Christmas to all- both those who love me and those who hate the very idea of me and those who are completely indifferent to my existence! God is Love!