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  • Writer's pictureDavid OMalley

Spirally bound to presence: a meditation for Christmas

I have suspected for a long time that many of us do not really believe in the nativity. We know the story, pull the crackers, slice the turkey and we see only the trimmings of a seasonal pause in the year. If we really did believe in the nativity we would need to make room at Christmas for confusion, wonder and even fear because the crib tells us that Jesus is closer to us than we even dare to think.

My own experience of that closeness is that it ebbs and flows. In part it ebbs because I am not focused on a presence that never leaves me but it also ebbs because I am not in control of that presence. I cannot hold it but it is always holding me. That sense of presence is not just an ethereal thing that floats around me like a mist. It is in my bones, it is biological. When God is said to have created the human person he is described as shaping us from the dust and breathing his spirit into us (ruah). So, we are a people who encounter God’s presence in our bones. God is ever intimate with us so that, like two lovers, it is not possible to say where one ends and the other begins.

That is why fear and wonder combine when we recognise this incredible intimacy. “In him we live and move and have our being” as scripture expresses it. This presence identifies with us so much that there are no joins! God has become what he loves. God has become human, not only in Jesus but in each one of us. That is why we are all called children of God, why humanity is sacred and eternal. We breathe the breath, the ruah, of God every day and God identifies himself with us and is the best that is in us. The crib scene with a vulnerable human being at the centre is the outward sign of an astounding reality- God is with us.

This presence was with us when we grew up, with us on our first date, with us in examinations, with us on holiday, with us in sickness and in celebration. This presence will also be with us in death and in paradise, a faithful unconditional loving presence that carries us through life. You cannot lose this presence because it spirals through your being like DNA. You can trust it to be there, just as Jesus trusted that same presence that he called “Father.” It was that trust that proved stronger than death for Jesus and the same is true for us. That presence, whatever name you give it, will never abandon you because you already belong together.

“Pie in the sky when you die” many people say when these truths are spoken. They discount the Christmas story and are content with the blinking lights and trimmings. They are missing the many splendoured truth. The Christmas story is a reminder of the mystery of who we are in God. It is a challenge to narrowness and superficiality and an invitation to wonder and explore our human nature some more. Above all it is a challenge to trust. Jesus found his meaning in life through trusting this presence. In it he found his vocation. Jesus found his friendship groups by trusting that they too had been called to live and trust that same presence. Jesus also found his resilience and wisdom in trusting that presence in his life. Jesus found a strength in that trust that was stronger than death.

This Christmas, in some small ways, continue the journey of trust in that deep prevailing presence in your pulse, in your breathing, in your silence and in your friendships. Simply trust that God is with you and let yourself grow in meaning, resilience, friendship and peace of mind. Such trust gives you an evolutionary advantage in following your vocation. “Know that I am with you always, until the end of time.”

Happy Christmas.

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