One of my favorite people to listen to during this season is Alexander John Shaia. Alexander John is a speaker, author, scholar, and psychologist. His fresh take on the Christmas story brings me a lot of hope and I find myself searching out podcasts and articles by him every December.
The Christian narrative around this time of year is inescapable. It can be painful to navigate this when going through a faith transition. It can be hard to sing the old hymns you used to love, to ponder if you really believe in a virgin birth or if you really believe that Jesus even was God. It’s difficult to be confronted by your lack of certainty during a time that holds so much spiritual meaning. I spent a few numb Christmases myself because I just didn’t know what to think.
The Incarnational Reality of Christianity
Alexander John says that when we want to know where a holiday comes from, we don’t need to go to theology, we need to go to the earth. Christianity is an incarnational religion. The religion hinges on the fact that God came to the earth and inhabited a human body, with all the messy mundaneness that it brings. Around Christmas time we talk about the idea of Immanuel, God with us. I am drawn toward meditations and writings around the visceral nature of the way that Jesus entered this world, through the blood and guts of childbirth, like this poem by Kaitlyn Shetler.
Did you know that Christmas wasn’t celebrated until close to 300 years after Jesus’ death? If you have time, read this interesting summary of the history behind the celebration of Christmas. In the 4th century AD, church leaders superimposed the celebration of the birth of Christ onto the already existing celebration of the winter solstice.