Seeing Howard Thurman’s little book, The Mood of Christmas, here on my desk this morning, brings my spiritual mentor of over forty years to the forefront of my mind. How I miss Gordon! I have a large notebook of our correspondence through the years and I remember, with deep affection, our many times together at lunch and walking and talking together. My world is not the same without him. It was Gordon who gave me Thurman’s book years ago, and it has become my practice to read it each Advent and Christmas season.
Gordon once wrote, “What is the heart of this amazing season? What happened in that Holy Birth that has brought surprise, awe, and wonder to all who have really journeyed to Bethlehem? The key word is kenosis—a New Testament Greek word meaning self-emptying, pouring out. The astounding affirmation that people of faith make is that God self-emptied into Jesus, becoming weak, helpless, vulnerable, in real danger [just as we have come into this world]. Only thus could God be Emmanuel—God with us. This is a mystery so profound that whenever I glimpse its deeper meaning, it slips away. I affirm it often, but do I really believe it? Is God that passionate for each of us?”
The event in Bethlehem of long ago was wrapped up by the Gospel writers with pretty paper and tied up with colorful ribbons with a little tinsel added to make it appealing (angels, a star, and all the rest). Religion is always wrapped and expressed in poetic, mystical and imaginative terms. Sometimes that pretty paper wrapped in ribbon becomes a barrier for thoughtful people. It is not the wrappings on which we need focus. It is the Gift! Could it really be that God is that passionate for each of us?