Advent 2023

Advent 2023

There are things I like about the word religion – and things I don’t.

Here’s one I don’t: religion tends to divide the sacred from the secular.

In the religious sense, sacred refers to God, Jesus, the Bible, sacraments, worship, church music, religious art, and the church itself.

That which is secular is everything else: nature, science, non-religious art and music, any community that is not the church, and almost everything that is understood as “work.”

Sacred tends to be understood as good, even perfect. Secular is less than. Not quite. Not as good (or not good at all!).

(Note: with this understanding, most things we call life are relegated to the secular, not the sacred!)

Christmas renders this distinction false, declaring instead that all things are sacred.

At the first Christmas, God became fully present, visible, and tangible in a human being named Jesus. It’s not that God wasn’t present, visible, and tangible before Jesus was born (God was!), but that the things of God – sacrificial love, justice, forgiveness, and goodness – came into even clearer focus in Jesus.

God’s showing up in Jesus was not only a message about Jesus’ sacredness, but the sacredness of everything earthly, everything human, everything, well, everything.

Christmas said that if God can show up in a baby, God can – and does – show up in all babies. And all sunrises, and all meals prepared with love, and all deeds of kindness, and all works of art, and all occasions where people gather in love, and all forms of work, all moments, all places, and all things.

All things. Not just church things or religious things.

Even the tough things, the hard to understand things, the things that break our hearts. Even then, there’s hope. There’s still a thread of goodness, an opportunity to make things better. As God’s goodness was present, visible, and tangible in Jesus’ struggles, holy love shines through our troubles, too.

So, the sacred inhabits and saturates our lives, our world, all things. No limits and no exceptions!

This Advent, we’re inviting people to Behold! how the divine is present in every aspect of daily life – not just the churchy parts. Behold! – pay attention, notice, be alert, alive, awake, and aware to the richness, wonder, awe, and splendidness of everything.

We live in an enchanted world. We live an enraptured existence. If we’re not enthralled with life, it might be that we’re not looking closely enough.

So, this Advent and Christmas, we’re inviting you to slow down, ponder, and enjoy the beauty, complexity, and delight of ordinary sacredness that’s within and all around you every moment of every day.

None of it can be dismissed – or dissed! – as secular. Nothing’s secular!

It’s all wondrous. It’s all astounding. Like Jesus, it’s all heaven on earth.

It’s all sacred.

This Christmas, I invite you: Behold!