The Christmas nativity is quite remarkable on a number of levels. Traditionally we rejoice in the story of Jesus’ birth – the birth of the world’s great King, who continues to reign with God’s Love.
The Gospel of John, describes how “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. Before taking Communion, we say the Anglican Prayer of Humble Access: “we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us”. But what does it really mean to have the Christ dwell in us? Beyond the concrete Jesus, the living Christ is something much more cosmic and abstract – “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit”.
Considering the nativity from a psychological perspective, it isn’t difficult to appreciate how the Christ might struggle to find a birthplace within us. Our human preoccupations and emotional complexes leave little “room at the Inn”. The only place left is amongst the “animals”, amongst the muck and the grime – luckily our minds still harbour some kindly animals so that the Christ child needn’t face up to the mind’s lions and tigers straight away.
Having found a birthplace within us (“Bethlehem” – the house of bread), Christ’s survival is still touch-and-go. Herod (our ego and desires) wants to destroy all threats to his supremacy, and he’ll stop at nothing – he’ll even destroy the purest parts of us to ensure the Christ seed cannot grow, to ensure the bread cannot rise. Fortunately, unlike the wise men and shepherds, Herod is unaware of the secret star which provides a direct path to Christ. Herod cannot see let alone know how to “follow the light” and by this our inner Christ is protected from harm. We, on the other hand, can seek Christ within us by following the star of Bethlehem.
Christmas means so many different things to so many people. However, if we could only allow the nativity to live within us we could truly “behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” and “see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man”.
May Christ be born within us this Christmas, and may our inner Christ grow so that we may truly “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” and “love thy neighbour as thyself”.