My family is visiting us this Christmas holiday, and I did not intend to write this evening, but I do want to offer two messages.
First, I want to express my gratitude for all of you who read my SEP and often respond with encouragement. I consider it a privilege to be able to communicate with friends and family in this intimate format. My weekly attempt to share my joys and concerns about our common life allows me to quietly gather my thoughts about what is most important to me each week as I also attempt to articulate what is likely to be part of your lives as well. However we may feel on any given day during this time of so much change and uncertainty, we are in constant wonderment often about what it means to be alive during this era of global history. I think we all live with an equal amount of discouragements over government or the state of our lives, especially with the two active wars of which we are a part, and we all continue to struggle with our broken dreams and fears for the future. But then many of us are also deeply heartened positively by such amazing examples of our our species’ successes of slowly overcoming hatred with love. Given the examples of good will out there, and because we simply don’t know about the future, there is always reason to hope we will have the ultimate ability to live together nonviolently and cooperatively.
It is a great wonder to me that with all our education and access to encyclopedic information at our fingertips, we are actually increasingly aware how much we still don’t know about each other, our fellow creatures, and the natural environment itself, and, perhaps most importantly, about the complexity of our interdependent lives. The older and wiser I get, it seems, the more I am humbly aware of how little I really know - how much any of us can never know.
What we do know is that each of us is made up of some combination flesh and spirit. Our lifelong challenge is to try to balance those two basic elements out as we navigate the brief sojourn of our lives through the perils between birth and death. And hovering in and out of our lives is an awareness of a transcendent Spirit of life and love that ultimately provides us with a semblance of meaning to it all. The life of Jesus, which begins with the birth of a human baby that we are celebrating this Christmas season, is an example of this balancing of flesh and spirit with the tremendous affirmation ultimately of the power of love.
We ground this presence of Spirit in our own personal lives in at least two primary ways. One is our lived experience of what it means to love someone or something deeply enough that it acquaints us with a sense of reverence - the birth of a child, the glory of a spring day, the awe of the destructive capacity of a powerful storm, or accompanying a beloved as they breath they last breaths, for example.
The second way we ground Spirit in our lives is through the contemporary grand stories of heroism and grace through our family legacies or exemplary heroic figures that can only be explained by our heroic figure's extraordinary character and love of life. To our minds and hearts these people may seem even bigger than life. You may ask who these folks are in your life.
Beyond contemporary heroic figures, there are the ancient myths which distill millennia of wisdom into forms that invite relatable wonder and reverence. As a practicing Quaker Christian one of those epic stories is encapsulated in the life and teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Bible. These stories offer me ultimate guidance, inspiration and encouragement for the living of my personal life and as a source of a prophetic vision of the possibility of peace and a beloved community here on earth. However one equates the power of Jesus ministry with God, it is a revolutionary yet attainable goal of how to practice unconditional love in our personal lives and in our common life.
So in that sense the Christmas narrative that I am recognizing this weekend is for me is an acknowledgement of the gift of love and peace through the story of an extraordinary man of God, a lover of the human condition, including its tragedies of so much harm we do to one another, as well as a vision for how we still might live together nonviolently. And the story, of course, is a reminder that profound love often includes risk and sacrifice, even unto death.
I am aware that my faith and practice may be strange or even offensive to some. But as always my writing is intended to be affirming and uplifting to your life and spirit. Please accept it with that intention.
Blessings to you as you commemorate and celebrate his holy Christmas season and the transition into a new year.