Dear Reader: this post is about Christmas, and it may strike a chord with you especially if you struggle with Christmas. Or if you’re struggling in general. It’s dark at first, but if you know dark like I do, that won’t faze you. The second half gets brighter.
This past year, I’ve been led repeatedly to one big lesson. I didn’t think of it in terms of Christmas till this morning.
The big lesson is, weirdly enough, summed up in the words of a bumper sticker: Always remember that you are wonderfully unique…just like everybody else. It’s the everybody else part that’s captivated my soul this year. Despite all my delusions to the contrary, I keep coming back to the truth that I am not special. I am just like everybody else.
Two-thirds of the way through my natural life span, it seems likely that I will live out my years like everybody else—breathing, sleeping, eating (preferably at diners), working, taking up space, trying to make my one-person’s contribution to the world. When I die, I will almost certainly fall into the category described by the writer of Ecclesiasticus:
There are some who have no memorial,
who have perished as though they had not lived;
they have become as though they had not been born,
and so have their children after them.
In other words, not special.
Now here’s the breathtaking part. The Christmas part.
Christians believe that in an average backwater on a contentious fringe of the Roman Empire—in a stable, no less—God became a human being.
In other words, God became not special.
Think about that. We’re talking the Source of all that is, the Ultimate Reality, the One who is special in a way no other being can possibly claim. Becoming not special.
That’s pretty amazing all by itself, but there’s more. Having become not special, God knows what it’s like to feel one’s not-specialness in one’s deepest self. So we can peer into our own not-specialness and sense that God is with us in it.
It is hard to express how much we need this withness.
You see, our not-specialness can lead us to despair. We’re born, we live, we’re average, we die. Ultimately, we do a lot of this alone. What’s the point, especially when life is so difficult?
The Christian tradition has answers for that—good answers—but they’re not part of our story today. The story today is that God responds to the question, to our temptation toward despair, with withness. With a connection, a communion that is closer to us than our own breath.
No one wants to be lonely. We all want to be with. This is being with at the core of our being. Being with the Source of all that is. The answer, in so many ways, to the deepest longings of our hearts.
We could hardly ask for more.
Joyous Christmas, everyone.