Originally posted on December 25, 2013.
I am sure I will awaken on this sacred day in awe of God’s glory in humanity through Christ. As I contemplate my unfolding re-awakening through our Advent celebrations, my awe expands in my hopeful but inadequate spirit. For many of us in Divinity School and in churches, Christmas marks one of those few times of ultimate divine revelation. It becomes so hard to fathom the violence and confrontation between faiths when the pursuit of revelation and the Divine is our shared pilgrimage. Is it possible this very season of sacred celebrations among so many peoples of faith can expand, without threat, our faithful visions of divine revelation in Christ? My own celebration of God’s incarnate love and care for humanity is inspired further by the sacred beauty of such diverse celebrations of the Divine—enlarged by Jewish celebrations of Ḥanukkah commemorating the recovery of Temple worship in the Festival of Lights; extended by Islamic honoring of ‘Ashura, remembering Muhammad fasting in unity with creation and Moses‘ fast for liberation; expanded by Bodhi Day of Buddha’s enlightenment, seeking freedom from the roots of human suffering; intrigued by the approaching Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti in pursuit of wisdom illumined by light over darkness; strengthened by Chalica in the Unitarian Universalists’ principles of human dignity, compassionate justice, acceptance, searching truth, conscience, world community, and interdependence; and profoundly deepened in Kwanzaa’s principles of divinely inspired black life in unity, self-determination, collective labor, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. This sacred season should move each of us from our faith traditions to transforming visions of one another celebrating the Divine’s relentless pursuit of humanity. My Christian faith need not be threatened by the many diverse sacred celebrations taking place this season, vying for ritual space in our shared lives. Our celebration of Christ’s birth is a celebration of God’s in-breaking, of God’s out-breaking, of God’s unbreakable love for humanity. On this day in my Christian faith, I am driven to my knees in joyful celebration of God’s unyielding providence to restore humanity—to rekindle the Divine spark of creation, to breathe again and again the Divine breath of life in humanity, to revive life with the flame of God’s sustaining Spirit. Christ’s unyielding love restores humanity and turns our faces toward a vision illumined by God’s Spirit, however dimly perceived through our glassy eyes. My faith in God through Christ is not weakened by the faiths of those who gather in this pilgrimage for the sacred embrace of humanity and the Divine. They strengthen me, not in resolve to conquer them, or with entrenchment in fear of contamination or unfaithfulness, but with inspiration for this journey together. Our shared pursuit of God and one another is God’s own gift to creation. Christ is that gift confirmed and restored, again and again. I am grateful that Vanderbilt Divinity School is an intentional community of sacred celebrations embracing God’s gifts in mindful study. Christ leads me with Divine love and sacrifice in this sacred embrace, teaches me, and frankly compels me to embrace God and humanity, . . . though with broken arms, no less.
Blessings to you in your sacred embrace! Ashe. Selah.
Dale P. Andrews, PhD’98
Distinguished Professor of Homiletics, Social Justice, and Practical Theology