The God of Christmas.

Christmas has become the junk drawer of solstice celebration due to its immense commercial success, and non religious traditions. In that drawer, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Churches everywhere are inviting people into this story. That’s their job and if they could, they would teleport us back to the manger so we could go deeper into its validity.

Last week I proved we are all believers. We all have faith. And if mathematics, love, and truth can exist and be known, then God must also exist and be known in a similar way. Math can be known in its esoteric theory, or in its practical application. The same for love, truth, and God. We all know something, none of us know everything, and thus we are all partial believers.

Our differences make the challenge of revealing the God of Christmas that much harder but try and give yourself to this moment.

Christians believe Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy which reads:

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

If the baby in the manger is God coming into the world as a man, a savior of the world, then the trajectory of this arrival (advent) is increasing peace as a result of his leadership influence. I am only aware of two approaches to making this happen.

1. Conversion. Clearly, this is the strategy of contemporary evangelical Christianity. The Christ is viewed as the king. As a king, the increase of his rule comes by acquisition. The world is divided between the occupation and the new insurgent forces. Following Jesus is seen as joining a life or death battle in which there is only one winning side. All losers, defectors, or those who will not bow to Christ’s leadership will suffer and pay the ultimate consequence. Christmas is the dawn of the ultimate power play and all of scripture is poured into this binary system of good vs evil. Salvation is seen as picking Jesus’ team. Love and peace are seen exclusively the property of those who side with Jesus’ alternative religion. Hell is literally for the rest.

2. Completion. This is the Christmas story I am consumed with exposing. The Christ is the  incarnation of God into the world. Biblically speaking, the Christ has been a part of all human history, all cultures, all religions and has always interjected himself into our lives. Jesus is the perfect and complete incarnation of the Christ in human history. Perfectly God, perfectly man. His life is an historical and also archetypal lens through which all of humanity can see themselves and the purpose of their suffering. The Christ completes but does not eradicate all religions. Early Christians remained Jews, Samaritans, Greeks, and Centurions. Christ completes each individual without eradicating the individual. Salvation is not converting to an alternative religion, but the liberating process of finding our true identity in God by the cosmic work of Christ. Christ is not on either side of a binary equation, but the third, transcendent way that illuminates our very life.

The God of Christmas then is not a theological carrot dangling on a stick where we defer satisfaction for “one day.”  God did not enter the world to create a fear based belief system that threatens us into behavior modification. It’s not an evacuation strategy. The God of Christmas is the awakened heart to the reality and power of love in all its expressions. The God of Christmas shows up when we give love, peace on earth, and good will toward all others. Jesus is a big deal because we see modeled for us a pattern for our humble beginnings, our service, our suffering, our loves, our oppression, our friends, our rejections, our dying, and our rising over and over again to new life. We are all a big deal, because we are each retelling this story.

For those who believe, may you believe in new ways. For those who thought you didn’t believe, may this become the day you give a name to your awakened heart. And may I suggest, if you are willing to consider this, the name of Jesus.

May you each have a Merry Christmas!

The God of Everyone.

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This title evokes a reaction in us. Atheists will say; “I don’t believe in God.” Believers of every denomination will push back because their system of faith distinguishes between “innies” and “outies.”

Jews worship Yahweh. Christians worship Jesus. Muslims worship Allah. Buddhism is non-theistic so one wouldn’t usually say they worship Buddha. Buddhism is an incarnation of Hinduism which has thousands of gods that are worshiped. These are only a broad swatch of main world religions, but there are thousands of tribal gods, historical gods, and mythological gods to which people are fiercely loyal. Atheists are not exempt, they are loyal to their faith in no God.

This is why religion is not discussed at dinner parties. For many, the topic of God is so subjective and unprovable, that it has been relegated to the sphere of personal preference, not unlike interior paint color. Yet it’s deeply personal and people get defensive.

Faith is a byproduct of Truth. It is impossible to define any aspect of truth without a faith commitment. Thus we are all people of faith because we all know something of the truth, but none of us know all truth. Faith is fidelity to that portion of truth we possess.This levels the playing field. We only differ in the object of our faith.

Interfaith organizations strive to diminish the differences between faith systems by reducing things to semantics. While I appreciate their goal of unity, I think larger problems emerge. When an organization validates certain shared truth claims, but invalidate others, they become the arbiters of truth and we get no further than the single religion claiming they are the only true religion.

So is there a God for everyone? Or many gods for many personalities? Is it one God with many names? Many expressions? These are common conclusions, but if we lack wisdom, we end up in a semantics quagmire again, or believing God is a conception of mankind.

If there is a God, then he/she must be accessible to all people of all times in all places. A God that loves a few and hates everyone else is the antiquated story line of ancient people who made God into their own image and then passed it down to us. A religion that plays “Red Rover” with the culture in hopes of making a convert is not promoting God so much as their system and I think modern people are  wise in their skepticism. Face it, many faith based tribes are not that different than a multi-level marketing plan. Yes, religious systems can do a great job of introducing us to God and spirituality, but none of them can get us all the way there. Religion is not the same as God, it’s too small of a container. This is why so many people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. I attribute this to a raise in collective consciousness.

This is our clue to finding the God of everybody. The moment we grasp God consciousness, we enter into common ground. God is that which is behind all things, beyond measurement, beyond words, beyond our systems, but not beyond our consciousness.

I will now use mathematics to prove that we all share some amount of God consciousness..

Toddlers know experientially the difference between one cookie and two cookies and as such has a rudimentary math consciousness. A quantum physicist also experientially knows math. The mathematical reality of numbers going on forever proves something infinite exists and we intuit life everlasting. Math is required for our banking, our building, our hiking, or cooking. No one on earth is exempt from experientially knowing math, yet many don’t know it formally. None of us know it equally.

We need to rethink our God categories which are likely too small. Mathematics is not empirically provable, but all empiricism is based upon it. Mathematics is not a convention of man, but an ongoing discovery. It’s infinite, unfathomable, but learnable for all comers. What truth we gain from it on day one, is true at our greatest understanding.

If this can be true for math, this must also be true for God. David said “The sum of your word is Truth.”(Psalm 119:160). God and Math share the truth framework. This helps us see the advent of God into the world. I’m not saying God and mathematics are the same thing, only that the presence and function of one makes the other a valid possibility.

When it comes to God, we all start somewhere. We all know something of math and Truth and thus God. None of us know all of it, but we all benefit from knowing more. And there is so much more to know, but at least this is a place where the whole world can begin their inquiry. Next week, we will explore what knowing actually means.

The God of Disappointment.

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We all face disappointment. Our recent election shocked nearly everyone but left half of our country in the pit of disappointment. Statistically, workers outnumber promotions, so it’s likely you were passed over a time or two. When relationships fail, disappointment is the bedrock upon which they bottom out.

Since disappointment is such a painful and unpleasant experience, we avoid looking too deeply into it. It’s not a place we want to linger, so we quickly work to release ourself from its gravity. The common, knee-jerk corrective is to give up hope. We intuit wisely that our hope is directly linked to disappointment, but our immaturity tells us we were over-hoping. This doesn’t really diminish disappointment as much as it reframes it. This chokes off the life-force of hope.

I’d like to offer a new strategy, but first we have to learn more about disappointment.

Think of your last big disappointment. What happened that you did not want to be true? That question is our first clue, because disappointment is our response to aspects of truth that we would rather suppress. Like trying to compress a giant spring off of a car, suppressing the truth creates a tension that will always overpower us to our harm.

The fastest way to more disappointment is to suppress the truth that disappointed us in the first place. This is our second clue. What we pridefully think is true is not all that is true. Disappointment then is an invitation to a wider perspective. As such it is benevolent. The wider view always humbles us because as C.S. Lewis says, “we replace things as they are for us in favor of things as they are.” The Greek word for this is metanoia, it is was religion calls repentance, or changing our minds.

Therefore, disappointment is the suffering produced by our inability to possess a world slightly better than it presently is. Suffering is produced by those aspects of the truth that we opt to suppress rather than love.

If we grasp this, then disappointment is only a container for something much more (2 Corinthians 7:9) Disappointment is the incarnation of God showing up, humbling us, and inviting us into wider truth. We can either be transformed by the process, or we can press on that spring and suppress the truth we don’t want to be true. This only furthers harm to ourself and others, inviting more disappointment.

Disappointment is sacred space, but it’s not all esoteric. We have the cruciform pattern to follow.

  1. Jesus was disappointed in his disciples (sleeping(Luke 22:46) , fighting(Luke 22:51), denying(Luke 22:61).
  2. Jesus was disappointed in his tribe/religion (Sanhedrin and their unjust capture, arrest, trial, sentence -Luke 22:52)
  3. Disappointed in his State (Rome’s inability and apathy, unjust torture sentence-Luke 23:25)
  4. Jesus was disappointed in his relationship with God (Why have you forsaken me?-Matt 27:46)

Unlike us, when Jesus met disappointment, he didn’t argue, defend, fight, retaliate, scheme, join a protest, or plot revenge. He humbled himself and went with the flow. Jesus embraced the process as necessary and it changed everything. And like him, we will each encounter this same, precious moment.

What about us? Can we welcome the invitation of disappointment to show us the truth we would rather suppress? What would happen if our country could humble itself enough to embrace and even love the wider truth that brings both sides together? Can we ever get to the place where we are honest about that part of us that hurts when we are disappointed? It’s not that we hope too high, its that we aren’t willing to surrender and be taught by our suffering. As a result, we miss God when he/she appears and we deflect the invitation to satisfy our greatest hopes.

May we have the eyes to see disappointment for all that it is, (the Advent of God) and be transformed by it.

 

The God we don’t anticipate.

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Anticipation is what the Advent is all about.

I didn’t grow up in a tradition that spelled out the Advent on a calendar or with a particular liturgy. Like most of you, what little I know of the Advent season, has been quarantined within a narrow and particular framework that culminates in wise men, a pregnant virgin and a baby in feeding trough.

I’d like to invite all comers into a current expression of Advent. I believe there is something here for beginners as well as the devout. For me, there isn’t much value in retelling the story of God showing up in the world as a Jewish boy if the significance of this arrival doesn’t find itself in modern life.

How do we reconcile “A savior is born” to what we see on the nightly news?

The church’s main product is the seasonal teleportation back into the ancient story with primarily an esoteric suave for the suffering world that greets us each day. This pushes anticipation into our eschatology (end times) where Jesus will come back one day and open up a giant can of Whoop-Ass on those without KLOV on a radio preset.

Is that the best we can do? Are we anticipating a savior of the cosmos or a dread warrior?

What if the Advent of God into the world wasn’t entombed in the nativity scene? What if it wasn’t about us trying to find God in history, as much as recognizing God as something other than a bearded white man, a carpenter or a bird? Why is “other” diminished?

When we look deeply into our own eyes through a mirror we catch glimpses of our self. Over the course of our lives we have seen our body morph around that part where we see our same old soul flickering back at us. The pains and joys of life manifest themselves in increasingly deeper creases of skin as we try and shape our exterior into our “shoulds.”

There is a precise moment in the mirror when our consciousness sees beyond our face and sees who stares back? Who is that? It is you and it is so much more.

May I suggest that we are seeing something like an echo reverberating off eternity and beauty.  All that we love and hate about our image reflects back the depth of what we aspire to or despair of. If we are awake, we can perceive the eternal moment showing up AS us. Sorrow is our unwillingness to accept that God is reflected in what we see.

What if the advent of God in the world in 2017 is you and me? No, we are not God. But my prayer is that we may discover, perhaps for the first time, that we are not completely other than God either. If the baby in the manger can teach us anything, let it be that God dwells within humanity. That our bodies are temples, and we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:9), and that God has chosen to make his/her abode in thick darkness (1 Kings 8:12). That we have a treasure enrobed in a jar of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are an ongoing incarnation.

If we can accept our deeply sacred and spiritual capacity, then our personal Advent has begun.  The wider Advent takes place every day as any act of love toward anything in the cosmos. Advent is the reparation of anything we discern as broken or disorderd. Advent is the acceptance that nothing is missing from each moment, and that the face looking back at us in the mirror is not just our own.

You are so much more than you. You are a unique reflection of God in the world. And so is everybody else.