A Christmas I Can Celebrate

Christmas was always special to me, certainly as a child anticipating and receiving special gifts, and then as an adult enjoying being on the giving end with family and friends.  This, along with the nostalgia of a beautifully decorated home and church and fellowship all around.  Even a special “After Christmas Christmas Party,” an annual event for many years, where my wife and I entertained 50 to 80 guests in our home. This annual party culminated in a carol sing fest led by my choir-director brother, accompanied by his wife.  Yes, these were rich and memorable times.

And yet I am not sure I really was moved by the Christ of Christmas during this time. The manger birth, the shepherds and wise men, all overly familiar, and yet not fully touching my soul. And when I left the church over ten years ago, I left this Christ-in-Christmas story as part of a bigger issue for me, namely, “Gary, just who is this Jesus Christ in your life?” This question I have described from time-to-time in these posts.

This Christmas a new meaning came to me through a Pathwork lecture, Lecture 239 Christmas Lecture 1975.   This lecture was written when Eva was 60, and just three years before her death in March of 1979.

But before I share some of its words that so moved me, I need to frame two pieces from my Lutheran heritage.  The first piece deals with Christ as a sacrificial lamb, dying for the sins of the world.  The doctrine goes that, while God is Love, God also is Righteous, and in his Righteousness he demands payment for our sins.  This payment, the doctrine says, is the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ on the cross.

In my recent thinking, this has not made sense. How does the death of a lamb or of a man or of the God/Man Jesus Christ atone for or make right anything? How is God helped or satisfied by such sacrifices? These thoughts fall into the same camp as the words of Gandhi: “An eye for an eye and the whole world becomes blind.”  What is accomplished in the eyes of God by brutal sacrifice and destruction?

On this count I am drawn to many passages in the Old Testament that seem to say that God is not all that interested in sacrifice.  To pick one at random, try Hosea 6:6: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” So if God says he is not interested in these Old Testament sacrifices, why would God now make the sacrifice of his son the core piece of our spiritual life? No, what is called for is a transformed life on the inside.

So how do we become people of love, mercy, truth, in short, people of God? I am moved by Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17:20-23: “My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

This is pretty lofty language. It points to oneness on many levels. And raises the question of our identity.  Who am I? If Jesus and God live in me, are they yet separate from me? Why do I insist that my true identity is “NOT GOD” when Jesus is inviting us to see the Oneness of the All? Why do I insist on being identified with all that is NOT GOD in me rather than that which is GOD in me? Isn’t Jesus painting a different picture, one in which we are one with him and with God? This seems to me to be a true “Good News,” a true “Gospel.” I am not trying to selectively pick and choose passages to support my point, but on the other hand these passages need to be somehow interpreted and incorporated into the identity of Christ, my relationship with Christ, and my own identity, as well as into the story of Christmas.

The Pathwork lectures have several Christmas messages.  I now invite you to read this selection from Pathwork Lecture 239 mentioned above.  It was culled from this lecture by Tom Hubbard for a Christmas celebration during a weekend of transformation work at Sevenoaks earlier this month. I had the privilege of being the reader of this selection at the celebration and have been making reading it part of my daily practice during this Christmas season.  This is a Christmas message I can truly celebrate in my bones from my core.  I pass it on to you as a Christmas blessing.  With love, Gary.