The challenge of this time of year is not just that we have to stand against the temptation of trying to live up to the culture’s (or our mother’s) expectation of how this holiday season is supposed to be transacted (and decorated); the challenge also is about countering the superficial sentimentality that confronts us on every side. Sometimes we may feel that the only alternative to the hype of Christmas is to turn our back on it all and play Scrooge.
The biblical readings in church begin to steer us in a deeper direction. The Advent readings about the end times along with the birth narratives that we are just now coming to remind us of the coming of Christ two thousand years ago and the coming of Christ at the end of the Age.
But there is another dimension of this birth that lies even closer at hand. To grasp this, however, requires a different way of knowing and a different way of seeing. Rather than subject-to-object (me on the inside looking out and encountering Jesus as “other”), this knowing is subject-to-subject. This contemplative knowing is what Raimon Pannikar called Christophany, and it requires what Cynthia Bourgeault refers to as heart knowing. Far deeper than mere sentimentality, this contemplative knowing requires locating your own deepest and most authentic self. It is that in you that is correlative with Christ, and to experience this deep intrinsic connection is to be most fully alive.
While this is not something that can necessarily be “achieved,” it is a reality to which we can surrender. It doesn’t, therefore, require something additional or “more” from us (another string of lights or reading another book); usually it is more likely to be discovered through subtraction. And while there is no guaranteed program I can recommend, I can simply suggest taking the time in these last days of Advent to linger in a quiet, darkened room. Let go of as many layers of your “accumulated self” as you can. Breathe quietly and thankfully. In this suspended moment there isn’t any need for posturing or pretense. Here you are in this moment. Without any agenda, allow it to be fresh and clean and new. Here, perhaps, is the beginning of the birth of Christ within…
I send you blessings and best wishes for a meaningful celebration of the Christ event—in you.