“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced,” said Søren Kierkegaard. Personally, I have reached the point in life where I don’t feel the need to understand everything, particularly in the area of faith.
The mystery and wonder of life is at the heart of this season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But religion often focuses on doctrine, creeds and even the divinity of Jesus to such an extent that we miss the reality of his humanness.
My friend Rev. Ben Campbell in his wonderful lecture series Who is Jesus?, says: “The Son of God can mean a lot of things. But the one thing it most assuredly cannot mean is that Jesus was not human, that he was not a man, that he did not come from the womb of Mary, that he did not function in a normal human way… God may be a lot more like the Jesus we see as human than the miracle-working Jesus we see as divine… The more we sense the reality of Jesus as a human person, the more likely we are to be infected by the holiness of his being.”
Watching our two granddaughters (18 months and 6 months), I marvel constantly at the gift of life, a true miracle each time. I imagine Jesus as a baby and a toddler who, like our grandchildren, had to be fed, washed, and educated and – no doubt – scolded from time to time. The values that he lived he learned from his mother and father. One of the things that fascinates and humanizes Jesus for me is that he appears to have been learning all his life. He was open to new insights and even challenges – sometimes from women.
Jesus did not come to found a church or a religion. He came to demonstrate a way of life that above all emphasized love of our neighbors, particularly those of different economic, cultural and racial backgrounds. Yet his name has been used as justification to exclude, persecute, imprison and kill countless innocents. Other religions are equally culpable. In Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Brian McLaren recalls a mentor telling him: “Remember, Brian: in a pluralistic world, a religion is judged by the benefits it brings to its nonmembers.”
A demand for certitude and discomfort with ambiguity misses the wonder of the season. Ben Campbell remarks on the frequent descriptions of amazement in the Gospels. “The good news will call you to a stature of astonishment rather than certitude; of appreciation rather than control; of heart knowing rather than head certainty.”