In a few days, we celebrate Christmas again. Generally, our festivities are focussed on an unusual event that happened in the ancient past. Yes, it has meaning for us and, traditionally, guarantees the possibility of salvation and eternal life for humanity. But the problem with this version of Christmas is that it has little value or impact on our lives here and now. And that is a tragedy.

In this episode of the EvoFaith Podcast, we explore the central message of the Christmas story—that God is incarnated in humanity, including each one of us. And we are invited to experience ourselves as incarnations of the divine, which has the power to change how we show up in the world and how we treat one another. Because when you change your inner world—to recognise yourself as a divine incarnation—everything changes in your outer world even if nothing changes. 

This Sunday is Christmas Day! And may it be a blessed, joyful, rich and magical day for you and your loved ones. I am an unashamed lover of Christmas. I love setting up my tree on Advent Sunday and keeping it up until the twelfth and final day of Christmas on the 5th of January. I love the feasting and celebration. The sharing of gifts and the Christmas carols—which I have on repeat from Advent Sunday until January 5th. I also love the mythology of Christmas—and it IS mythology. 

In the Western World, we approach Christmas with a strange mix of magical and supernatural thinking and a conviction that everything is uninterpreted history and happened exactly as the story says. Yet, we know Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. And, if we pay attention, we know that there are lots of things added into the Christmas story that aren’t in the biblical accounts. Honestly, it makes me sad that we fight about greetings at this time of the year and we argue over whether the story is factual or not. Because when we do this, we miss the whole point and we actually rob Christmas of its most profound and meaningful wonder.

Let’s look at the simple Christmas story as told in Luke 2:1-7.

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Notice a few things that are missing: no inns turning the couple away, no stable, and no whitewashing of the humanity. There are also wonderful hints at the messiness of childbirth, and the simple need for hospitality from friends, family, and strangers in our times of need. But most importantly, throughout the two nativity stories in Matthew and Luke is one consistent truth—God is incarnated in human beings. Not just one human being—Jesus. But in all of us. The Scriptures tell us that we are also incarnations of the divine. Christ in you the hope of glory, says the writer of Colossians 1:27.

The Christmas story is meant to break down the divisions we have created between spirit and matter, God and creation, sexuality and spirituality. But the way we tell it, we’ve lost this gift. Our discomfort with the radical truth of incarnation has led us to prefer living in a dualistic world where God and spirit are completely disconnected from humanity and matter. And then we have forced the incarnation of Christ into this divided worldview. We’ve insisted that Mary had to have been a virgin or Jesus could have been neither divine nor pure. And then, to ensure that Mary was pure enough to bare a divine child, we’ve declared her to have been immaculately conceived as well. Furthermore, we’ve removed Jesus from his identification with all of humanity and from his own humanness by seeing him, his life, death and resurrection as unique and unrepeatable.

All of this reveals that we can’t handle incarnation. We can’t handle God in the natural, in the ordinary, God in us. God with us, yes—we’re comfortable with that. Just. God within us? Not so much.

But, if we want to master our inner world so that we can learn to live fully, authentically and courageously, then we need to master incarnation. Or rather—we don’t master incarnation, because there’s nothing to master. We are, all of us, already incarnations of the divine. All we need to do is learn to know ourselves as divine incarnations and live boldly and confidently into the reality of incarnation. We need to simply learn to be who we already are.

So how do we do this, especially in this season when we celebrate incarnation? Here are some simple thoughts that I hope will help you.

Theologically, if we believe in God (in whatever way) then as Richard Rohr says, God is either everywhere or nowhere. By definition, the divine Being must permeate everything or else God is not God. And that has to include the divine Being within human beings, within you and me. This is just a basic reality of existence. Remember that I am speaking of God, as I have many times before, not as a being but as Being itself. And so knowing this about the divine, I cannot deny the divine within me and that empowers me to connect more intentionally with my own divine nature and live from it.

From an evolutionary perspective, one of my favourite ways to think about God is as the process of evolution itself—the life, death, and love that drives the universe toward greater connection and complexity. There is nothing in all of the universe that does not participate in the process of evolution and that does not have the evolutionary impulse flowing through it. And so, we are all walking incarnations of the evolutionary process. But for the first time—that we know—in evolutionary history, we have the power to shape our evolution, to evolve intentionally and consciously. And that challenges me to be more intentional and deliberate in living as an incarnation of the divine life.

Globally, the truth of incarnation is that there is nowhere we can go where God is not. There is no one we can meet who is not an incarnation of the divine. Sometimes that incarnation is hidden—as in certain former Presidents of the USA, in my opinion—and sometimes it’s more visible. But when we begin to be intentional about recognising and celebrating the divine in one another, our world reflects the divine presence and glory more and more. And our lives and world become more peaceful and loving.

Following on from this, it almost goes without saying that an incarnational approach to our closest and most intimate relationships has the power to transform and strengthen those relationships dramatically. When we recognise the divine in our loved ones, it changes how we treat them. And when we recognise the divine within ourselves, it changes how we show up in our relationships. And so it can be wonderfully life-giving to seek out glimpses of the divine within us and in those around us.

And finally, on a personal level, it’s so easy to focus on our failings, inadequacies, shame, regrets, and foibles. And we tend to see these things as anything but divine. And yet, when we recognise that we carry within us the divine spark, we can recognise that these things don’t define us and they don’t make us less valuable. And then we can even begin to believe that in some way the divine can be revealed and experienced in these ‘unacceptable’ parts of us and we begin to be kinder and more gracious to ourselves and we love ourselves more. And that automatically converts to a richer, fuller, more meaningful, more connected, and more compassionate life.

Christmas is not a celebration about a strange, supernatural once-off event that happened thousands of years ago. It’s a celebration of the truth about our universe and about every single one of us—that the divine, however we may understand it, is incarnated in us. And when that truth sinks in, it changes everything. Because when you change your inner world, everything changes in your outer world even if nothing changes.

Have a wonderful Christmas as you connect more deeply with the Christ who is incarnated in you and in your loved ones! 

Next week we prepare for the New Year and we explore what it might mean to master our future. I will be exploring what it means to master our inner world and how we can learn to harness our three selves in order to become masters of the world within us.

But for now, that’s all I have. Thank you for your time and attention. Stay connected to the Sacred. And I’ll catch you next time.

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