RevRonRobinson at aol.com
RevRonRobinson at aol.com
Thu Dec 15 15:37:43 EST 2005
I hope you will find ways and a time during this Advent season (perhaps even
while you are reading this letter) to simply breathe in deeply, and hold
your breath, and in that moment of holding to be aware "in the twinkling of an
eye" of all the world contained in your lungs, all the spirit, all the hope of
your life and of those you love, and also the longer you hold your breath
that you will become aware too of the pain and hurt and scarcity and deprivation
not only in your life but in the world. In holding your breath, the beating
of your heart becomes clearer and louder, along with the sharpening of all
That is like the waiting that is called Advent. And Christmas is like the
rush of new breath, new life, that comes filling us up once again, reminding us
of the gift of Life we've been given.
I have been more aware lately of all that breathing entails and implies
since my angina and blocked heart artery last summer. Like breath, Christmas can
be taken routinely. But I am here to tell you that neither is inevitable.
Christmas may not come.
Oh Dec. 25th will come. Everything associated with Christmas may
come--families may gather, churches may meet, presents may be given and received, food
may be plentiful, traditions may be kept. But still Christmas where it
counts--in our depths of soul and freedom of heart and joyful service of hands--that
Christmas may not come. The old saying is true: Christmas is not like
winter.(Excuse the northern hemisphere orientation). Winter will come regardless. I
love winter (he says from Oklahoma), but I've never felt there was much to
celebrate in the routine returnings of nature's cycle, splendid and God-given
though they be. And though I am with Ralph Waldo Emerson, and can see the
"miraculous" in the simple raising of an arm, marveling at all of the cosmic
evolution and consciousness that has gone into the event, still the miracle of
Christmas is something else, something more. You can't schedule, arrange,
maneuver, will, engineer Christmas. In truth, the more you try the more Christmas
Christmas celebrates, imitates, and initiates the incarnation of God.
About Incarnation, I share from Frederick Buechner's book "Beyond Words":
"The word became flesh," wrote John, "and dwelt among us, full of grace and
truth." (John 1:14). That is what incarnation means. It is untheological. It
is unsophisticated. It is undignified. But according to Christianity, it is
the way things are. All religions and philosophies that deny the reality or the
significance of the material, the fleshly, the earthbound, are themselves
"Moses at the burning bush was told to take off his shoes because the ground
on which he stood was holy ground (Exodus 3:5), and incarnation means that
all ground is holy ground because God not only made it but walked on it, ate
and slept and worked and died on it. If we are saved anywhere, we are saved
here. And what is saved is not some diaphanous distillation of our bodies and
our earth, but our bodies and our earth themselves. Jerusalem becomes the New
Jerusalem coming down out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband
(Revelation 21:2). Our bodies are sown perishable and raised imperishable (1
"One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the
attempt to be more spiritual than God."
Amen! I know that is my own confessional. And my personal prayer for the New
Year will be to be more aware of the Word in the Flesh, experiencing what is
called the embodied God in me and in others and in the earth.
Christmas is a story to help us see and feel the Incarnation. The story, the
event, overturns all the theology that came later and too often betrayed the
event and story. God is always More than we can grasp, hold, imagine, bear,
know, or even experience--but God, Christmas witnesses, is also right there
in the womb of a young unmarried Jewish girl struggling to live under every
oppression, homeless, poor, hungry, outcast, afraid, shamed, and God is right
there in the presence of the body and companionship and uncertainties of
Joseph, right there in the birth pains and cries and first breath, first touch and
hug and breastfeeding, and first twinkling of an eye that mirrored the stars
overhead, so bright they seemed to come closer and add their light into the
darkness of the earth. God is right there in the fragile new life that could
have been, really could have been, snuffed out so quickly, in so many ways.
But wasn't. Not yet, not yet.
The miracle of Christmas came once. And the hope ever since is that the
miracle of Christmas will come again, the Incarnation keep spreading. But it
isn't inevitable or predictable or it isn't Christmas. For the God of Christmas
who loves the world, for the creator of abundance and diversity and freedom,
"once is not enough." Christmas is meant to come again and again and again. I
believe it does. It has in my life and in so many others, and I hope in yours
Of course it may not come during either the liturgical season or shopping
season. But I believe it will come. Once it came to me in April, in a story
some may have heard before. I was having a particularly bad day in a stressful
time and part of it, a very small part of it, was a car that wouldn't start
and meetings to be had in other towns. So I borrowed a car from a relative, one
that ran but barely and was only used as a spare itself. I was speeding down
the turnpike, praying all the usual prayers for gas to hold out to the
station, for the car not to break down, for the police to be absent, thinking of
all the problems and coming up with no solutions. I looked down and saw a
cassette tape sticking out of the car player and my curiosity arose and my need
for something other than my own thoughts and own world arose, and I pushed it
in and waited to see what would come (music of some kind, motivational,
audiobook? God forbid a televangelist tape to raise the blood pressure higher?).
But what I got was Christmas music. Not Bing or Perry or Elvis or Celine. It
was dogs doing Jingle Bells. Chipmunks. Miss Piggy and Kermit. And "worse." The
very kind of music that the righteous "reason for the season" crowd
(including me) either frowns on or suffers. And yet I couldn't push the stop button.
A crazy light-hearted generous spirit from another world entered my own bleak
and shriveled one, and I was laughing and breathing again and the
speedometer was slowing down, and there was God Incarnate changing the world bit by bit
moment by moment. Reminding me that in the times so much more difficult
than that day, I too might receive a gift of love.
You can't "spiritual" your way to Christmas. But one of the things that does
help is to be in an Advent spirit--of attention, expectation--so Christmas
doesn't come and you don't know it.
The Rev. Buechner says this too of Advent in his book of words "Beyond
"The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop
chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the
orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised the baton. In the
silence of a midwinter dusk there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a
sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the
silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the
front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost
nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that
reminds you of a place you've never been and a time you have no words for. You are
aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to
happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens.
Advent is the name of that moment.
"The Salvation Army Santa Claus clangs his bell. The sidewalks are so
crowded you can hardly move. Exhaust fumes are the chief fragrance in the air, and
everybody is as bundled up against any sense of what all the fuss is really
about as they are bundled up against the windchill factor. But if you
concentrate just for an instant, far off in the deeps of yourself somewhere you can
feel the beating of your heart. For all its madness and lostness, not to
mention your own, you can hear the world itself holding its breath."
Rev. Ron Robinson
Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship
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