Saturday, December 24, 2011

What If Jesus Had Not Been Born!

A Meditation on the Meaning of Christmas

I have always thought the quickest way to get at the deepest meaning of Christmas day is to imagine how our lives woud be different if Jesus had not been born. Scripture speaks of a people who dwelled in darkness until Jesus was born. Jesus is the spiritual light of our world. If Jesus had not been born we would still be living in that darkness.

Darkness here is a metaphor fot a life withour ultimate meaning; a life of hopelessness and despair. As St Augustine observed in the third century: You made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts will never rest until they rests in Thee! At the deepest level of our self awareness, we are aware of a ferocious hunger and thirst for union with God.

The Psalmist expresses that hunger and thirst dramatically. In Psalm 42, we read: As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you. I thirst for God, the living God. And in Psalm 63 we read: O God, you are my God, I earnestly search for You in this painful and weary land where there is no water.

Every human being, if he or she opens his or her awareness to the spiritual depths of human consciousness, will experience the longing to be one in being with the divine being. That oneness is achieved through an exchange of love.

In his famous "kenotic" passage, Paul writes of Jesus Christ: "though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, becoming obedient to death, even the death of a cross. (Phil 2:6-8)

As a result of Jesus entering into our world in human form, the possibility of fulfilling that longing in our psyche for oneness with the divine being became a real possibility for every human who lives a life of love! Following his death on the cross we are told in scripture that Jesus descended into hades where the souls of all humans who had preceded him and lived a life of grace were waiting for him to open the gates of heaven. At his resurrection Jesus entered heaven at the head of a crowd of millions who had said yes in their lifetime to God's invitation to oneness in love.

So Jesus' life was important not just to Christians who have the blessing to believe in him but to all humanity. If Hindus, Muslims, Buddists, etc., through a life of love can enter into union with God, although they may have no conscious awareness of Jesus Christ, nevertheless their entrance into that union was made possible by the God-man.

Thank you God, my Father, for the gift you made to all humanity by the birth of your son.

John J. McNeill

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