Meister Eckhart wrote: “We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly, but does not take place within myself? And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of Man is begotten in us.”
What good is it? Isn’t that our question? It is our question about Church—going to church, belonging to a church. What good is it? It is our question about Christianity, about religion, about faith in general. What good is it
What good is it when there are church buildings all over the place and the world is still a hot mess? If there is still poverty, hunger, and many folks who are unhoused? If God still allows racism, misogyny, warfare and gun violence? What good is it if God doesn’t come down here and fix these problems?
Beloved, that’s not how God works. Christmas tells us that. This beloved story that is our story tells us that God doesn’t magically fix things because we are good or perfect or holy. Or because we get our religion just right. Unlike humans, God doesn’t move from a “quid pro quo” mindset. We may have been taught to believe that if we get our religion just right, then God will be pleased and fix things down here. And—of course—and then we will get to go to heaven.
Beloved: that is just not how God works; it is not the point; and we really need to let that understanding of God and faith go. Following Jesus is not about earning the golden ticket into heaven. In fact, none of the major world faiths are about that. They are about how we live. Here. Now.
Christmas shows us how God works. In the midst of the Roman empire–when folks are struggling—working hard and still not making ends meet. When too few have too much, and the tyrant makes life miserable for so many, God doesn’t wave a magic wand and collapse the empire. God sends a baby. God joins humanity. More than that—-God dwells, God lives, IN humanity.
And Beloved, there’s something that happens when the Holy, the Sacred dwells within us. It seems to release what Abraham Lincoln called our “better angels.” The holy within releases the force and power of love inside us. Christmas, after all, is a conspiracy of Love. Because Love attracts Love. Love empowers love. Love begets Love.
The holy resided within the One we know as Jesus—completely and entirely filled his being. And so his life was a life of healing, of restoring the outcast and marginalized back into their rightful place in community. His life was forgiveness and reconciliation, of feeding and providing water to the thirsty. He was a Kingmaker of Hope, of Love, of Peace and wellness.
And then there’s Mary. Mary who says yes, consents to becoming pregnant with Love and then giving birth to love. And this birth was like all other births: dangerous, painful, sweaty, bloody—requiring her focus and giving everything she had to birth Love into the world.
Our Christian faith gives us Mary and Jesus so that we will understand who we are. Who we are already and who we are always becoming.
Because the work of Jesus and Mary is now our work. Each generation’s work; every follower’s role: to say yes and become pregnant with Love. And then to do the hard labor to birth love into the world, again and again and again.
And not just any kind of love, but the love that in the Hebrew Bible is known as “hesed” Judith Valente in her book, How to Live; What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches us about Happiness, Meaning and Community, tells us that hesed connotes “...a kind of mother love, an extravagant love, a lasting love, a love pulsing in the gut, filling the bones. (75)
What if Christmas is more than a story with a “Hallmark” moment when we feel temporarily warm and fuzzy, joyful and generous—and instead: What if we understand Christmas as God’s ongoing conspiracy of love that heals and restores all things?
Beloved, as we allow Love to fill us, to become our what, become our how, become our why—then we become empowered to move to the hostile places, the gaps, the wilderness spaces and simply be. Be who we are. Love. And that love attracts more love. And then Love finds ways to fill the gaps, bring order to the chaos, and grow new life in the wilderness. Love is the power and force that turns hostilities into hospitals where reconciliation and healing take place—restoring Creation, and humanity to its balanced glory. Peace on Earth and good will for all people.
We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God—and this broken, beautiful world—is always waiting for love to be born. What good is it? Oh, Beloved. It is the very good that turns this upside down world right side up again. Happy Christmas.
Jane Johnson is the pastor and priest of the Beloved Community of Intercession Episcopal and Redeemer Lutheran.