Today is Christmas Eve, one of my favorite days of the year. I have kids now of course, so the day will be filled with teaching them geography via the NORAD Santa Tracker, traipsing the munchkins around for visits to get sugared and gifted up, tearful goodbyes to our elf on the shelf, then finally off to bed before Santa visits, and I spend three hours putting toys together.
Somewhere tomorrow night though, after the children are nestled all snug in their beds will be a moment to contemplate the meaning of Christmas. This is not some mandatory belief in a savior as some Christians would have us believe. Nor is it just a mockery of Yule or just another another Solar God tale. Certainly it is not the materialist excess that I am as guilty of engaging in as anyone else is.
Specifically, when it comes to Christmas, there are three things to the story that I think are important. Three sacred keys to understanding what the story of the nativity is really trying to communicate, and Linus was kind enough to articulate them all in a Charlie Brown Christmas:
”And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”
Here are the three mysteries. The three things about Christmas that I think are important.
1. ”The Glory of the Lord shone round about them”. This is HUGE, and very few people get it. The Glory of the Lord is the Shekhinah. It is not figurative, but a literal light that indicates the lords presence. Until this point in Jewish history, the Glory of the Lord shone in the temple and only in the temple. It shone in response to the efforts of the hereditary line of High Priests. Now, on Christmas it is appearing to lowly shepherds in a field! Things are changing…
2. I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. The key words here are “all people“. In our age it is easy to lose sight of how territorial religions were at the time. Gods were the god of a particular people – not of everyone. Buddhism was one of the first religions that was for anyone that wanted in – no race, culture, or caste requirement needed – the truth was for anyone or it was not the truth. This statement is saying the same thing. Divinity is too big to be contained in such a small vessel as a race or culture. It is beyond that or it is not divinity.
3. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. This is not just instruction on where to go find the child, it is a SIGN. Divinity manifested in one of the quietest, meekest, and lowest possible manners: as a defenseless child laying in an animals feeding trough. The idea here is that Divinity is not the providence of kings or priests or even the well off. The highest possible level of divinity can manifest in the poorest and meekest.
These three keys are not just for those that call themselves Christian. Christ never drilled people on belief . They are sacred keys of understand a truth. Divinity is accessible not only to a select lineage or special vocation – it is available to everyone, even lowly shepards. Divinity is for all people, not just a single group or race. Divinity manifests from the highest to the lowest in status or stature. Becoming “Christian” is about the least important thing you can take away from it.
Merry Christmas to All and to all a Good Night.