Hope in the Age of Darkness: Gifts of the Incarnation
As we near the celebration of Christmas, we are challenged to add a key element that Jesus shares with Nicodemus in John 3. When Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night, Jesus challenges him saying, “No one can see the kingdom of heaven with being born from above.”
Nicodemus does not understand what Jesus is saying, and he asks how an old person like himself can be born again. “Do we have to go back into our mother’s womb to be born again?” he asks. Then Jesus gives us this incredible insight that speaks to us today. “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Think again now of the annunciation the angel Gabriel made to Mary in Luke 1. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy.”
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch for us to consider how we come to celebrate Jesus on Christmas Eve … in the dark. And as we approach the cradle, I think we have to hear the words of the adult this child will become. “You must be born again … the Spirit of God will bring you new life.” This, if you are awakened by this Spirit, will be the birth of Christ also in us. As people born of the Holy Spirit, we will experience the Christ within us even as we celebrate the Christ born into Jesus, whom Fr. Richard Rohr calls “our central reference point.”
Jesus doesn’t intend to keep this incarnation just to himself. He comes to point out the Christ within you … within every single person you meet … indeed, in everything God has created. The gospel writer John sees Jesus as one who comes, not just to be blanketed alone as a small, innocent baby, but as one who comes challenging us to “be born again … and again … and again.”
So as we approach this celebration amidst a pandemic, social upheaval and, for many, a darkness marked by fear and grief, we come with this hope that Christ is born again … in us … in our families of faith … as we hear Jesus describe the wind. It blows where it chooses, and we don’t always know where it comes from or where it goes. What we do know is that, if we will give ourselves to this flow … what Rohr calls the “divine dance” … we will experience God as the source of a light that bursts through our darkness and gives birth to hope.
This Christmas, let us be born again, and experience the Christ who is born to us … for us … in us!
God who gives us birth: We pray that we might experience our own rebirth as we celebrate the birthday of this one whose name is “God Delivers:” Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.