Why Christmas Changes Everything
An idyllic Christmas eve morning. The Tree is lit up, with a few gifts ready under it. Instrumental Christmas Spotify playlist playing, a foamy cappuccino and a Bougies donut. Where would this world be without the Christmas, commercialized and removed from the story as it may be? All we have to do, is stop, raise our eyes and remember what the story is. This impossible and transcendent story.
A baby is born in a remote place at a remote time. God with us, the meaning of Immanuel. I believe this actually happened. In a pandemic year, in any year lived on this beautiful and broken planet, this changes everything if we pay attention. It means we’re so much more than highly evolved apes, that there is a benevolent Creator who lovingly and sacrificially made His home among us.
The Christmas story changes everything because it means we are not alone, not now, not ever. Immanuel.
Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Child (1622)
Maria Popova wrote a fantastic piece in the Marginalian about this seeming impossibility of the human experience without the spiritual dimension. Enlightened, gifted, progressing at an accelerated pace in science, technology and medicine as we are. The brightest minds still acknowledge the “beyond” factor.
Niels Bohr, quantum theory founding father and Nobel laureate, offered a nuanced take on this.
“We ought to remember that religion uses language in quite a different way from science. The language of religion is more closely related to the language of poetry than to the language of science. True, we are inclined to think that science deals with information about objective facts, and poetry with subjective feelings. Hence we conclude that if religion does indeed deal with objective truths, it ought to adopt the same criteria of truth as science. But I myself find the division of the world into an objective and a subjective side much too arbitrary. The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer. But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality. And splitting this reality into an objective and a subjective side won’t get us very far.”
May this Christmas reflection light up your day. Beyond the joys, sorrows, victories and regrets, may your heart rejoice at the thought that you matter cosmically, inexplicably and eternally. A beloved son or daughter of a God, who chose to enter this world as a fragile human, to suffer and show us the way of love both here, now and beyond.
A quick scan of similar explorations in the Marginalian- pioneering nineteenth-century astronomer Maria Mitchell, who paved the way for women in science, on our conquest of truth, Carl Sagan on science and spirituality, Richard Feynman on why uncertainty is essential for morality, Simone de Beauvoir on the moral courage of atheism, Alan Lightman on transcendent experiences in the secular world, and Sam Harris on spirituality without religion.