by Laurie Gudim
A few years ago on Christmas eve, a friend of mine asked me, “If Christ were born into the world tonight, where do you think it would happen?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Chicago?”
My friend smiled at me. “Why not Darfur?” she asked. “Or Afghanistan?” (It was before the devastation in Syria.)
Why not, indeed. I was thinking of rough neighborhoods in my own country; she was thinking globally.
In today’s passage from the Gospel of John, the religious leaders think they know lots of things about the Messiah that turn out to be dead wrong. They believe that he will not come from Nazareth or be a common itinerant. He will have a pedigree. He will come first to them, and they will recognize him right away.
If Christ were to come to us tonight, he would enter at a place of great poverty, hopelessness and need. He would almost certainly not speak my language – for English would not be the native tongue of his parents.
Learning about God is, for me, a continuous process of setting aside assumptions. To grow spiritually, I cannot rest in what I think I know but must instead reach for new insights and new direction. Love unfolds – pushing my understanding of its limits to ever greater horizons. In my relationship with God, God reveals God’s self to me bit by bit, as I am able to understand. “Inform me,” is a very good prayer. And fortunately God is very patient.
It is at the center of this kind of openness to Love that the streams of living water flow out of my heart. They do not come from what I think I know. They do not come from certainty. Especially they do not come of my pushing my own ideas of righteousness onto others. Instead they pour out with the shock of hearing God’s name spoken in a new language – or the corner of God’s hem revealed where I least expect holiness to be. The gates behind which they wait are opened by love, and my heart recognizes this love. Living waters quench my thirst. They are just what I need – and also exactly what everyone around me needs. They are surprising and wonderful, and my soul recognizes that it has been longing for them forever. They are nothing less than the Holy Spirit, capricious energy of birth and becoming, that which shapes each and every one of us, the astounding exhale of God’s love.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: Nativity by Barbara Hughes, photo by Ann Fontaine