The Christian Christmas story tells of God incarnate, of the Divine taking human form and living among humanity. It is an ancient story, not unique to Christianity. But in most traditions, God Incarnate is a king, a warrior, a great leader, a god among women and men. In this telling, God is born a helpless child to a Jewish peasant girl, in the backwaters of a conquered land, a small, if troublesome, piece of the great Roman Empire. God’s power lies not in power itself, but in love and care for the most vulnerable.
The power of sacred stories is not in their factual accuracy. It is their power to relay an eternal truth, to open a place for us to enter in with our own lives and our own stories, and weave in our own particular experiences of truth, of beauty, of joy, of suffering, of doubt, of yearning, of hope—all that makes us human, all that makes our lives sacred.
I know that for many Unitarian Universalists, the idea of an incarnational faith is one they have left behind. In the season of its telling, I invite us to enter in to this story again, with new eyes, or rather with the eyes of our tradition. William Ellery Channing, the founder of Unitarian Christianity, wrote in his 1828 treatise “Likeness to God: “God becomes a real being to us, in proportion as his own nature is unfolded within us. To a man who is growing in the likeness of God, faith begins even here to change into vision.” Theist, atheist, or agnostic, we can live an embodied or incarnational faith—striving to live our lives as acts of kindness, justice, beauty, wonder, hope, hospitality, and gratitude. Jesus embodied God or a spirit of love that spoke so deeply and with such healing power to so many people, so as to transcend his own living and dying. I enter the story here: a model for ministry, a model for hospitality and gratitude, a model for seeking and creating peace on earth, a model for finding the holy and the sacred in the here and now, within us and among us. I also see a responsibility to change this faith into vision by living it out as I can.
As we enter into this season of long nights and hopeful light, I wish you the best however you celebrate it—Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the New Year!