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Christmas Presence
Christmas Presence

The Birth of Christ in Us Is What Matters

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Winter Solstice

Make ready for the Christ, Whose smile, like lightning, 
Sets free the song of everlasting glory
That now sleeps, in your paper flesh, like dynamite.
—Thomas Merton, “The Victory”

Anglican mystic and author Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941) shares her perspective on the importance of Jesus’ incarnation and this season in the church’s life:

The Christmas Mystery has two parts: the Nativity and the Epiphany. A deep instinct made the Church separate these two feasts. In the first we commemorate God’s humble entrance into human life, the emergence and birth of the Holy, and in the second its manifestation to the world, the revelation of the Supernatural made in that life. And the two phases concern our inner lives very closely too. The first only happens in order that the second may happen, and the second cannot happen without the first. Christ is a Light to lighten the Gentiles as well as the Glory of His people Israel. Think of what the Gentile was when these words were written—an absolute outsider. All cosy religious exclusiveness falls before that thought. The Light of the world is not the sanctuary lamp in your favourite church. . . .

Underhill continues by exploring what it means for Christ to be born in our lives and souls:

Beholding His Glory is only half our job. In our souls too the mysteries must be brought forth; we are not really Christians till that has been done. “The Eternal Birth,” says [Meister] Eckhart, “must take place in you.” [1] And another mystic says human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on the quiet. And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger He must be laid—and they will be the first to fall on their knees before Him. Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in His simple poverty, self-abandoned to God.

The birth of Christ in our souls is for a purpose beyond ourselves: it is because His manifestation in the world must be through us. Every Christian is, as it were, part of the dust-laden air which shall radiate the glowing Epiphany of God, catch and reflect His golden Light. Ye are the light of the world—but only because you are enkindled, made radiant by the One Light of the World. And being kindled, we have got to get on with it, be useful. As Christ said in one of His ironical flashes, “Do not light a candle in order to stick it under the bed!” [Mark 4:21] . . .

When you don’t see any startling marks of your own religious condition or your usefulness to God, think of the Baby in the stable and the little Boy in the streets of Nazareth. The very life was there which was to change the whole history of the human race.

[1] Meister Eckhart, Dum Medium Silentium Tenerent Omnia (When Silence Encompassed All Things), Sermon on Wisdom 18:14. This apocryphal book is included in Catholic but not in Protestant Bibles.

Evelyn Underhill, “Incarnation and Childhood,” in Light of Christ: Addresses Given at the House of Retreat, Pleshey, in May, 1932 (Wipf and Stock: 2004), 40, 41–42, 45.

Story from Our Community:
A lovely gift of fresh flowers was left at our front door with only the name of the florist and “Merry Christmas.” Mystified, we checked with family members and the florist to no avail. I am left with the warmth of a gift from an unknown and will bask in the love and grace I feel by its presence, reminded that the essence of the Babe’s birth is found sharing Love to all we meet. —Genevieve M.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: Jesus came as an ordinary person. This small, simple, beautiful bud—with its extraordinary ordinariness—reminds us to see the goodness in creation and be present to this moment, right here, right now.
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