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Have Yourself a Transforing Little Christmas

Updated: Dec 16, 2023



I've been wondering why Christmas feels a little different to me this year than it used to feel. I appreciare that we live in a more secular society than I did as a child - that all Christmas music seems to be non-religious, and that I would be hard pressed to find a creche lit up anywhere but on the grounds of a church, but I think there is something more to it.


500 years from now, when people look back on our times, I imagine they will see the internet and the smart phone as breakthroughs that changed the world.  It will likely be similar to the way we look back at the discovery of the wheel and the printing press. But I also wonder if, when they look back, they will also see this as a time when we lost touch with our need for intimacy.


The Cambridge dictionary defines intimacy as things that are said and done only by people who have a close relationship with each other. Intimacy relies on our capacity for closeness and tenderness. Unlike love, which can be one-sided, intimacy must be reciprocated. It requires mutual acceptance, nurturance, and vulnerability. It means creating relationships where a wide range of thoughts, feelings, and experiences are free to take place..

We Americans pride ourselves on our individualism and personal freedom. When you add to that the loss of physical proximity that digital communication has introduced into our lives, as well as a Covid pandemic, we find that many people have retreated into solitary worlds. Like many, I often find myself filling the intimacy void with my ear buds and social media feeds.


Blue light screens can become our intimate other. There we control the narrative. There we run the show. We begin to lose our capacity for letting down our walls and exposing our deeper selves to one another. It is so much safer, so much more comfortable to live inside our heads.

 

The problem is that we were not designed to live inside our heads. We share a yearning for intimacy. We want to be loved unconditionally. We want to find a deep sense



of well-being and purpose. We want to be able to forgive others and to be forgiven when we are the offenders.  We want to live together in peace and harmony, and to raise children with noble hearts.

 

Digging even deeper, each of us shares a yearning for intimacy with Spirit, or God, or what the theologian Karl Rahner calls, Holy Mystery. For Rahner, Holy Mystery is in the background of the

universe, as well as in the background of our lives. We may disregard or even deny its presence, but Holy Mystery is part and parcel of our humanness.  We cannot separate ourselves from the Mystery of which we are made.


Fortunately for us, Christmas is coming. Christmas is downright irresistible. There is perhaps

nothing more vulnerable, more tender, more intimate, than the birth of a child. What better way for Holy Mystery to reach into our world and into our very beings and coax us back into relationship.

 

For me, Christmas is a thin place - a place where the transcendent and the everyday come into close contact. Its symbolism and rituals are deceptively potent. Across the country, Christians



attend church in far greater numbers on Christmas Day than we do on ordinary Sundays. That is because of the power Christmas holds for us. Nostalgia is always part of the package for me, but Christmas is so much more than sweet sentiment. When I open myself up to it, the whole experience of Christmas helps me connect to deeper levels of love and intimacy than I normally allow myself. Sending cards to people I only conncect with once a year, sitting in the evening in the light of the tree, wondering what to give the people I love, and making year-end charitable contributons are all Christmas rituals that invite me into greater intimacy.


Karl Rahner said that at Christmas, God gives us permission to be happy. Christmas assures us that we have more than sufficient grounds to be people of hope. Regardless of what is happening in our lives and in our world - regardless of our tendency to isolate and live in our heads - Christmas invites all of us into more intimate relationships – with Holy Mystery and with each other. When that happens, the world is always better for it.

 

Happy Christmas!


 

 


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