Okay, one more post before my break...
I had to share this with you because I just learned it from Fr. Richard Rohr and it’s just too good to keep to myself this Christmas…
In the first 1200 years of Christianity, the greatest feast was Easter with the high holy days of Holy Week leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But in the 13th century, a new person entered the scene: Francis of Assisi felt we didn’t need to wait for God to love us through the cross and resurrection. Francis intuited that the whole thing started with incarnate love, and he popularized what we now take for granted as Christmas, which for many became the greater Christian feast. The Franciscans popularized Christmas. Maybe their intuition was correct.
Francis realized that if God had become flesh—taken on materiality, physicality, humanity—then we didn’t have to wait for Good Friday and Easter to “solve the problem” of human sin; the problem was solved from the beginning. It makes sense that Christmas became the great celebratory feast of Christians because it basically says that it’s good to be human, it’s good to be on this earth, it’s good to be flesh, it’s good to have emotions. We don’t need to be ashamed of any of this. God loves matter and physicality.
And there’s more. You can read the whole thing here. But the gist of it is this…
The Christian faith can bring a lot of guilt and shame. The human mind takes God’s perfect message of love and acceptance through Jesus and twists it into exhortation and blame. This is especially so when there’s a man hanging from a cross involved.
The cross is a scandalous event. It’s meant to be so (if it weren’t, something would be terribly wrong in our thinking about it). And there’s an endless depth of love and meaning in that part of the story. The only thing is, it lives beneath layers of trauma that the cross uncovers in the human psyche.
ON THE OTHER HAND, the incarnation - the birth of God as a baby human - is loving from the start (as St. Francis saw). It is the story of God showing up not as a warrior/king in a grand palace, but as a child. Christmas is the story of God/Christ incarnate in the most vulnerable human form (and in one of the most threatening places on Earth).
Though Jesus was born 2,000 years ago, the Christ is inborn in each and every one of us. Christmas is God coming alive in human flesh - God loving God’s creation by becoming it.
You are anointed in this Christ incarnation. May the incarnation be real for you this day. May you know that God says yes to you by becoming through you.
Grace & Godspeed,
[It’s not too late to join my book study of The Universal Christ - Fr. Rohr’s latest book. The first module is live now! Click here to learn more.]