Christmas: Reflection on John 1:1-18
We love our technology. Smart phones, tablets, and lap top computers are everywhere. We might say that modern technology shapes our everyday lives. It often seems like we’re addicted to the internet, constantly checking our phones and our e-mail. Perhaps one reason we love our gadgets so much is that they give us a sense of control–and we really love that! A smart phone, for instance, has numerous applications (or apps) that help manage contact information, personal finance, directions to a destination, and the buying and selling of goods. We can use our smart phones to buy and ship a gift to someone in a matter of mere moments! If someone we do not like calls us, we can choose not to answer. Smart phones provide direct control over multiple aspects of our lives.
Technology, as exemplified by smart phones, enables us to manipulate reality to our liking. Amidst all the good that technology brings, it ever-so-subtly forms our need for control. This need often becomes the exclusive focus of our lives. We can easily become “control-freaks.” The need to control diametrically opposes the truth of the great feast which we celebrate today.
Christmas is not only about acknowledging the birth of Jesus. Christmas is the celebration of God becoming flesh. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This means that humanity is one with divinity. God has overcome all division between the divine and the human in Jesus Christ. Through Christ this divine oneness is available to all of us! Our whole existence is bound up with discovering our oneness with God by following Jesus. God wants to become our flesh, but will not unless we allow it. For God to become our flesh we have to surrender.
The Lord “gave us the power to become God’s children, to whomever accepts him.” Accepting the Lord means giving God priority and giving up this tightly held control over our lives so God can become our flesh. God wants to enter our lives, but cannot do so if we are obsessed with being in charge of our own lives. We change the world through technology, and so we think we can change anything. We transfer the attitude of manipulating reality into our spiritual lives and assume we know what is best for us. Theologically speaking, we become our own gods. This will only make us miserable. Instead of trying to control everything, let us take up a Gospel motto for celebrating Christmas: “Let God be God.”
The medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart once said, “Now God wants no more from you than that you should in creaturely fashion go out of yourself, and let God be God in you” (Sermon 5b). We can celebrate the birth of Christ by letting God be God in us. Here are three areas in which we can practice this: the desire to fix or change reality, the desire to do things that make us feel good, and the desire for proof and certainty.
First, it is hard for us to accept life as it is. We want to change people and situations for the better, at least what we think is better. In itself that is not a bad idea. The problems comes with needing to do this, and to do it immediately without any acceptance of reality first. We jump to fix someone or something without ever referring to God. To let God be God means to surrender our desire for control and to let God resolve matters in God’s own way. It means we give up our plans to achieve resolution and let God take the lead. This involves prayer. Surrender to God, then approach the situation that may or may not need fixing. Use reason and work out a good solution. In this way, we do not work from the need to control, but from being present to God in the moment. A lot of anxiety gets eliminated right from the start when we let go of the need to decide on our own, and let God be God in a situation that we think needs fixing.
Second, it is a marvel to think of how often we are motivated by feeling good. We do what makes us feel good and avoid what makes us feel bad. It is an incredibly self-centered motivation. Letting God be God means not choosing based on what makes us feel good, but choosing based on what God wants. God wants our presence in the now and for us to choose mercy. In the moment, however, we may want to do something else. Our feelings want precedence. We let God be God when we look to God first and not our feelings. Letting God be God means not letting our feelings be God! So, we do things that may not feel good, but that are good.
Third, we have little patience for mystery. Certitude and evidence are absolute requirements. We want a theory or belief proved true beyond any shadow of a doubt. We simply want to be right. There are few other ways to gain control than by proving how right we are! In this instance, letting God be God means waiting in the darkness of uncertainty and consciously entering into unknowing. Instead of dismissing something that exceeds our intellectual grasp, we settle into mystery. If we truly let God be God, we let God be Mystery, for God transcends our minds, our reason, and our thinking. We let go of our opinions and ideas about God and simply rest in the Divine Mystery. That is faith! Letting God be God means pure faith in God beyond all theologies, belief systems, and knowing.
“Let God be God” means worshipping no other God, especially not the self. Essentially, it means to let go of all self-preoccupation, and enter into interior silence. We turn away from self and towards God. Letting God be God happens by letting go of thinking about the self and silently resting in the divine. By centering on God and not paying attention to the self, we allow God to be God within us in this very moment.
“The Word made flesh” means God wants us to become God, too. But, here’s the rub! God invites us to become God on God’s terms, not on our terms. God is humble, not a god of violent power and arrogant might. That’s Zeus, Jupiter, or Odin. They are the father-gods of the Greeks, Romans, and Vikings, respectively. That is most definitely not the God of Jesus Christ. Our God empties the divine self in becoming human and in dying on a cross. Our God is nonviolent, gentle and subtle. So, becoming God does not mean we can claim divine authority for our every act, or get godlike powers. To become God on God’s terms is to surrender the need to control, to remove oneself as the center of life, and to let God be God. This Christmas, let us each ask ourselves, “Will I be open to experiencing God not on my terms but on God’s terms? Will I let God be God?”