He came all so still, where his mother was
as April dew, upon the grass.
Such a peaceful birthing! This sounds like no human birth ever heard of, yet, in this old English poem there is a naturalness and simplicity which for me, expresses the core of what begins to happen when we begin to believe in Jesus, when we begin to grow in Companionship with Him. For He is deeply courteous, deeply sensitive with all of us. It is as if his birth in us were to make of us a sanctuary.
Storm and the Kingdom

We sometimes have to take the Kingdom by storm, He does not. The Kingdom is already is, and it is only divine courtesy that he does not, like a star ship captain, make it so,whatever our thoughts or blindness or preferences in the matter.

The Kingdom comes in us only by our permission. A good example of this combination of the Kingdom being taken by violence, while being offered as a gentleness is His coming into Birth came by Our Lady's assent. That gentle obedience entailed difficulties, reproaches from those she loved, suspicions and the real possibility of being stoned for adultery. Of course she trusted Him to look after her, in the deepest sense, but there was no softening of the pain of Joseph's disappointment in her, or of her parent's heartache.  The very miracle of Joseph's compassionate understanding which prevented the worst, her death at the hands of the law, also meant that in a way, she was never going to have what most people consider to be a normal life and normal relationships again. 

This happens when we  too, begin to bear Jesus within us, and begin indeed, to transform from the inside out. The peace has to be not as the world gives for the world does not appreciate the flouting of its wisdom and common sense in the slightest. 

A Cloud of Witnesses

The star which opens this sanctuary  is thought to mark the place where Jesus was born. For all the tragedy and unhappiness that human beings have made of that moment in time, the place and the moment are precious. 
In many churches such a lamp is  a sign that God is present in a particular way, in a particular place, it is an invitation to bend knee and heart, and to be aware. In this place every denomination has wanted its own lamp. It could be a scandal, in a way, that we are not content to have one stand for all. Yet, when I look at this picture it almost seems to me that the lamps signify the presence of a cloud of witnesses a crowd of presences. Perhaps of  S. John's Spirits of the churches?

The Heart of the Story

At the centre of all this however, is simply the story and memory of a birth. All the rest is distraction. Jesus was born of a human woman, and became human. 

The implication of this story, it seems to me, is that the flesh is a fitting vehicle of the Spirit. That it is a fitting expression of the beauty and glory that we call God. It seems that the frailty of wealth and of human securities,  is not so precious as the warm breath and dung of the animals who shared this barn with a woman giving birth. That this woman giving birth is doing a sacred thing. 

Doing a Sacred Thing

It always was, and always will be sacred, however much we turn our heads away. For human beings, the denial of the flesh is the unbalancing of the spirit. The child born onto hay, on a place now marked with a silver star,  was to grow up and say 'Blessed are the humble'.  Sometimes I think this is what He meant. We are so concerned with being Spiritual, so concerned with our own rectitude. Yet, we are flesh. We are born of woman. Blood and water are involved in that birth. We are born as the lamb and the cow are born. We are born to wonder and stillness as He is born. 

If we try to separate ourselves from our own animal being we begin to make ourselves sick. If we begin there, we begin to understand some wonderful things about what it is to be holy people, people who are like children, receptive, expectant - instead of being people who are so lost in our own heads and fantasies that we do not even know we are being selfish or demanding, or denying the Kingdom entry into our selves. 

Warm straw, and cattle dung, and his mother's womb and breasts were not beneath Him. They are often 'beneath' us, yet we depend on them. They were the most precious and basic shrine earth could give the only cradle good enough to shelter the Lord of Hosts. 

A Quiet Life, and a Life of Quiet

It may be that He came without struggle or drama into this life. I like to think so. That his mother gave birth with acceptance and trust, and held Him, knowing as every mother does, that this son of hers was precious, holy, special. That He came as one loved and wanted.

And that like any other mother, she held this moment and Him in her heart, and would have, had nothing else happened. Had no star shone, no wise men come, no shepherds, no soldiers to slaughter his age mates, nothing but a quiet carpenter's shop and the peaceful wisdom of a life well lived in the company of friends. 

Of course, it was not to be. It scarcely ever is. His own, we are told, did not accept him. Sometimes, I look about at church and chapel, and I wonder if His own accepts Him yet. Far less the message of his being born physically and bodily. Yet we expect him to be born, spiritually in us. How is this to happen, if we do not, cannot, accept our carnal nature as being sacred and acceptable? 

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. 
So it was in the beginning, and so, I believe, it still is.

Loving Acceptance of Our Selves

Why do we find so many other things to do, than accept and love our own, and His, sacred fleshly nature?

Why do we set out to make our selves holy by the denial of the flesh, and yet not turn to 'the inside of the vessel', to make of ourselves a welcoming spirit? 

It isn't our failing flesh that holds us back from heaven after all, it is the behaviour that makes us unfit company for other people. It isn't our flesh that is weak, not at all! Neither does our animal nature make us unholy. But habits of mind, excuses for turning away from other beings, 

these things do hold us back...

The Place of His Birth
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A Legend
 ..I believe in the resurrection of the body, and in the life, everlasting.