I was raised Christian and I have a deep nostalgia and fondness for the Christ Child story, which is an ancient story (clearly pre Christ) and a story that still finds it's home in tales like Star Wars (which my children are currently watching) and Hunger Games. A child born to save the world. A child born with some kind of divine force (like Luke or Rey) or perhaps just the will (like Katniss), who fights against power and shines light on darkness and brings hope to the hopeless, freedom to the enslaved, love to the hated. This story is a universal and we continue to write it and will until true justice is achieved.
Kezia Here And There has a powerful photo essay about an Alternate Nativity, and one we could find mirrored wherever injustice is found for the Christ, the divine spark, is in front of us all the time. And we, I fear, are failing to see that which is universal.
History repeats itself, prophets are needed.
My own minister, Reverend Meg Barnhouse, delivered this powerful sermon just prior to the solstice, all about the divine child as our own personal "spark" the call inside us that believes, and loves, and seeks justice.
Good Yule to you all, and Merry Christmas! Along with our sisters, brothers and cousins in all Christian churches around the world, we are getting ready to celebrate the birth of the Baby, the Divine Child, the light of the world. We have all heard the story of this birth. This morning I want to talk about that story as the story of the divine seed in us, the wise baby spoken of in many cultures throughout the world.
In our Unitarian Universalist tradition we try to approach all scripture with respect, and with a broad sense of its possible meanings. One way we can do that is to approach the stories as if they were true in a transcendent way if not necessarily in an historical way. In other words, they tell truths, not about the world of history, but about the world of the soul.
Listen to the story of the birth of the Divine Child Yeshua in Bethlehem. His mother Mary had a visit from an angel who announced that she would give birth to a savior child. When it came time for the birth, the family was visiting Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem so they could pay their taxes. Born before Mary had been with a man, the baby was laid in a manger.
Angels and shepherds attended his birth, and some time later three magi came from far off lands to pay tribute to the new king born in Israel. The magi had stopped in at the palace, asking King Herod where the new king was.
The wicked King Herod quickly ordered all the males under the age of two in the town killed, so this royal child would not grow up to threaten his power. Warned by an angel to flee the slaughter, Joseph and Mary and their baby went for a time to Egypt, where they were safe.
The story of the Divine Child is repeated in many cultures throughout history. This information should let you know how important this birth story is, what the writers were saying about the baby by including these elements. They were saying he was a god-king, in a code the people of that time would hear and understand.
The Egyptian God Horus was born of the virgin Isis; as an infant, he was visited by three kings.
In Phrygia, Attis was born of the virgin Nama.
A Roman savior Quirinus was born of a virgin.
In Tibet, Indra was born of a virgin. He ascended into heaven after death.
The Greek deity Adonis was born of the virgin Myrrha, many centuries before the birth of Jesus. The Buddha is said to have been born of the virgin Maya, who was impregnated by a white elephant putting its tusk into her side. Those stories are from 500 BCE.
The most striking parallels are between Krishna and Christ (I say Christ because I want you to hear how like “krishna” it sounds, and also because that is how Christians talk about the divine aspect of Jesus, reserving the name “Jesus” for his human aspect.
Yeshua and Krishna were called both a God and the Son of God.
Both were sent from heaven to earth in the form of a man. Both were called Savior, and the second person of the Trinity.
Their mothers were holy virgins, who had similar names: Miriam (Mary) and Maia. His adoptive human father was a carpenter.
A spirit or ghost was their actual father.
Krishna and Jesus were of royal descent.
“Krishna was born while his foster father Nanda was in the city to pay his tax to the king.”
Both were visited at birth by wise men and shepherds, guided by a star.
An angel issued a warning that the local dictator planned to kill the baby and had issued a decree for his assassination.
Both were identified as “the seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head.”
Jesus was called “the lion of the tribe of Judah.” Krishna was called “the lion of the tribe of Saki.”
Both were considered both human and divine.
I don’t tell you these things to shake anyone’s faith, in fact, many scholars are now cautioning us about making comparisons between religious stories that are too facile. I’m telling you that there are some similarities to lift up that this is a nearly universal human story that tells a truth about the life of the soul.
The story of the Jesus, the Divine Child, has all the elements of every divine/human being’s story: Born in a miraculous way, threatened after birth but saved, visited by those who could see his light, a precocious child… the temptation, death and resurrection are part of all the stories too, but that is not what we are talking about here. In fact, what I want to talk about is the Divine Child in each of us. I want to say that maybe we are all divine and human at the same time.
The image of the Divine as a baby is so rich. I invite you to let go of your hold on the Judeo-Christian God you believe in or don’t believe in. Open up to an understanding of the Divine as Love, as Light, as Spirit. When God is a baby, no one has to fear Him. No one has to tremble before His wrath. No one has to wonder what they have done wrong, how they have disappointed Him.
The thought of a baby lets you start new, before anyone got a picture of what you are like. Before you got defined and diagnosed. Before you made any mistakes, before there were any misunderstandings.
A baby love, a baby light, a baby spirit carries within itself all that it will become, like an oak within the acorn, like a mighty river that starts as a spring welling out of the earth in a high and quiet place. The light starts as a tiny sliver, something you care for, something you nurture, you are careful with it. You delight in it.
What if this is a story about the soul entering the world of our body? The light of spirit and wisdom, the Divine Seed (to use a traditional Unitarian phrase) being planted in a human being? Most of the founders of our free religion believed that the seed of God, a tiny sliver of the light, was in each of us. Maybe it enters into us when we are in the dark of our mother’s womb.
Do you sometimes have the experience of the Divine seed glowing within you? Does it sometimes come in a midwinter time of life, when it is dark, when it is difficult to see in front of you? When you are in a time of not knowing, uncertainty? In the dark, even the tiniest light is visible.
The Divine seed, the wise baby, is within all of us, containing the whole of divinity in itself, yet needing to grow.
Antoine St. Exupery says: “the seed haunted by the sun never fails to find its way between the stones in the ground.” (“Flight to Arras”) We have the experience of being able to feel the light, however faint, as it shows us the next step to take.
When our souls are seeds “haunted by the sun,” we can grow. Is our soul the seed, or is it the light? Both. Do we long for the Divine, or are we Divine ourselves? Both. Do we search for God or is God within us? Both. That is my belief. You, as always, are free to believe about this what makes sense to you.
In times of confusion and doubt, see us able to visit our soul like the magi, the wise magicians, kneel before it with gifts of quiet, respect and love. We can nurture the light, the seed of God within us. We can protect it from the forces of power over, the forces of fear and control.
The Herod power, the light-killing, love-killing power of the outer world (and of our inner world as well.) I wish for you all at this time of the rebirth of the light that the light be reborn in you, that love be cradled in your heart, that your spirit be tenderly cherished.
Here is a poem by the 17th century Muslim Sufi poet Hafiz that says what I want to leave you with:
We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender even more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hole ourselves hostage from love.
Run, my dear,
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.
Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
May you always feel the divine spark inside of you. It is so beautiful and with it, we will create a world that is safe for all of us, filled with love, warmth, and peace. Your story matters because it is all of our story, a story told from before we can remember. You are so needed, your voice and light and will and force are exactly what the world needs.