This Christmas Day Reflection though centered within the Christian Faith involves universal principles about life for human beings that encompass the whole length and breadth of humanity who today predominately has no religious belief of any kind yet in their most elemental human need crave the very same thing.
Emanuel as most of you know means God among us. The birth of a little child in the Judean town of Bethlehem thousands of years ago who some say fulfilled prophecy about the birth of the Son of God who will be with us in the flesh and fully able to be human and yet remain God. That is the wonder and mystery of Christmas.
Angels in great majesty and glory, enough to at first scare the heck out of the men there sleeping on the ground, such humble Shepherds in the fields with their sheep, and the journey of Mary pregnant or not by the Holy Spirit alone but no doubt infused with something from God all other women are denied, and that this boy was at birth the great King or Messiah promised for the Jews by God for so long. Current day Jews see him as a nice child but not connected to God in any special way and not the promised Messiah of their people and faith. Muslims see Christ as one of the great prophets, all three religions being connected back together by being the offspring of Abraham: People of the Book.
Our family attended a superb Christmas Concert by the Milwaukee Choristers who have a great gift for interpreting core classical spiritual, choral classical music and church choral pieces offered one up that I found quite beautiful among so many so lovely, and the translation of the Latin to English to be the essence of what I feel about Jesus the Christ and see as so lacking for most people in our world: love for and among one another. And most importantly that very personal connection that a heart and soul open to God’s comforter and helper sent to us and encompassing God in spirit, the Holy Spirit.
It was a core Catholic piece of liturgical music, Ubi Caritas, sung in its original Latin, yet even when translated into English and arranged by Richard Burchard captured both musically and in words what my heart and soul have in Christ Jesus.
“Where charity and love are, God is there.
We are gathered as one by Christ’s love.
Let us rejoice and be glad.
Let us revere and love the living God.
And may we love each other with a
Where charity and love are, God is there.
In the same way as we gather into one
Be attentive, lest we be divided in mind.
Cease wrongful quarreling and conflict.
And let Christ, our God, dwell in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
May we along with the blessed saints see
In Glory, O Christ, our God:
The joy that is immeasurable and good,
for all ages and into eternity Amen.”
A Christmas Homily offered by Pastor Lisa Bates-Froiland of Redeemer Lutheran in Milwaukee really spoke to me inside on that so personal level. She spoke on Christmas Eve of an “exasperated God.” How often is God portrayed this way to those who lack belief? Even to believers? But she went through a long list of Biblical History evidencing the many ways God has tried to essentially get our attention and reach out in love to us. We, thinking we are ourselves our own gods, fools one and all keep rejecting this immense love and wish for God to be with us in our hearts and eventually in his kingdom in eternity with all the trimmings.
That is how I see it too. My God is a loving God, way past the point of me ever deserving it. He, she, or the entity, since God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all eternity wrapped in a huge circle of time we know not of could rationally reject us just as we continually reject him. Being the all powerful, omniscient being controlling all creation of any kind might make you do that. Yet he is passionately and without boundaries vitally concerned with each of us–for eternity. God chose to show us his image as a young child, a boy, then a man living in Judea thousands of years ago as a Jew. And his immense love. It is ours to have if we simply ask him.
It is his colossal limitless love for us just as we are that keeps coming at us. It quickly puts us in mind of how we ought to act toward all other human beings. Later he would teach us to love one another above all as he was ascending back to heaven and his Kingdom in that place. It is also an earthly Kingdom among all those who believe and who open their hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit. Try it. It really works. And the liturgical Catholic hymn’s command to cease wrongful quarreling and conflict is a worldwide need with a bottomless demand so pent up and not met. Where in the world do we want or need quarreling and conflict? Does that do true good in the long run?
So here is Emanuel, God among us, in that little baby Jesus in a cow shed so long ago yet so near in so many hearts.
That larger world, cynical, seeing itself as intellectually and scientifically superior to any higher power of any sort still can benefit. That great task of showing love for someone else: compassion, empathy, caring for and about them is never a losing proposition. For somehow those who extend love to another learn most from the experience, and get more love back then what they give. Physicists will be stunned by that one. And the first experience in a healthy human being who is firmly planted as a lover of humanity will be led to experience that again and again.
Christmas is one of the supreme expressions of God’s love for us no matter how imperfect we may be or lacking in what he eventually hopes will be a loving belief filled relationship. Putting God right here on this Earth to walk among us and now to be in our hearts and very souls, along with his suffering for our sake, in love, always in love, is awesome beyond words. Think on it for a while.
Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke
for Struggles for Justice