Paul Tillich “Nothing is demanded of you—no idea of God, and no goodness in yourself, not your being religious, not your being Christian, not your being wise, and not your being moral. But what is demanded is only your being open and willing to accept what is given to you, the New Being, the being of love and justice and truth…”
Why does Christmas so energize me?
It’s the wonder.
I’m not concerned with the video fact perfect kind of detail. It’s the story. An ordinary family with a husband who works with his hands are asked to be open to something wondrous. A child with power is loaned to them. Not power to dominate but power to transform. Everything in the story shouts sensation. There are angels, shepherds running to greet something amazing, wise people arriving with gifts and best of all; it is centered in an ordinary, everyday animal shelter. Could anything more illustrate finding the ultimate, the profound, and the eternal in ordinary circumstances?
One of the young Native adults is leading the conversation with some unusual questions.
“Okay, this story is about God coming to walk with us rather than being better than us. When the shepherds came to see Jesus and bow down, what do you think were the requirements of their entering the manager?”
After some discussion they came up with these answers. “They had to believe this was the Christ.” “They must have come with good hearts, with no bitterness.” They had to be good people, not ghetto rats.” “The angles sponsored them.”
“Wrong!” the young adult answers. I’ll read the story from Luke.”
He reads and asks the question again.
One of the teenagers says “It doesn’t say anything about them except that they did what the angels told them to do. It doesn’t say that they were good or bad. They were just there.”
Another teen speaks up, “The angels came to them and told them what was up. They went to check it out. It doesn’t say anything about what kind of shepherd they were. It doesn’t even say they were good shepherds with their sheep.”
“So,” says the mentor, “what do you think is required of you to see the Holy?”
“This is a loaded question, isn’t it?” asks the teen.
“Yes,” is the response.
“It means the Holy comes to us and doesn’t ask how messed up we are,” says the teenager. “That’s why we find ourselves on holy ground when we are talking with the homeless. God doesn’t ask us if we are good and doesn’t judge the homeless people either.”
I quote them Paul Tillich’s statement, “Nothing is demanded of you—no idea of God, and no goodness in yourself, not your being religious, not your being Christian, not your being wise, and not your being moral. But what is demanded is only your being open and willing to accept what is given to you”
“That hard core,” says one of the youth. “You would think God would have some requirements of us, like trying to be good, before we could see something as important as the Christ, even if he was just a little baby.”
“It’s a good thing for us that he doesn’t,” says the other teen while punching the first youth in the arm.
That’s why I like Christmas. It’s an unearned gift. It is the rock bottom of what it takes to stand before the Holy. (Answer—something ordinary and something eternal)