Talk by Tom Baker
December 21, 2008, The Fellowship of the Inner Light
Every Christmas I have a miracle either happen to me or I hear about one happening to someone else. This Christmas the miracle happened to someone else. Her name is Dawn Stoltz. She is a very healing person and sometimes she sees angels, but while she sees them she is not always sure of what she has seen. She might think, "Maybe it was a psychic projection or a strong wish or a reflection of light off of the window pane." In other words, she doubts herself in respect to seeing angels. Yet something happened last week that made her doubt less. She was beginning to play scrabble with her boyfriend. As they were setting out the board she looked up at the loft in her condo and saw what she recognized as the Archangel Michael: tall, broad shouldered, blue tending to deep purple, feeling protective and wonderfully kind. But then she looked again and didn't see the angel and wondered at the legitimacy of her vision. She turned her attention back to the scrabble game and began to pick out her 7 letters. The first six letters she picked out were: I, C, U, D, A, W. When she got to the W it was like Wheel of Fortune, she was ready to solve the puzzle, but she was also a little afraid to pick up the next tile for what it might be and what it might not be. If she had picked up a G it would have said, "I C U D A W G! But she turned over the final tile and it was an N. So her line of letters spelled out I see you Dawn. Her boyfriend was witness to this and he too was amazed. Dawn didn't just see the archangel Michael. The archangel Michael let her know that he saw her. Why is this a Christmas miracle?
Most of the time God is just a theory. An abstraction that you believe in like the theory of relativity or the theory of evolution or, as a child, Santa Claus. My first year in the seminary, I played Santa Claus at the zoo. It was an extraordinarily enlightening experience. I told every child right up front that I was not actually Santa Claus, but I was an ambassador from the North Pole. However, I did know Santa Claus personally and, when they told me their names, I told them that Santa Claus knew them. I loved this little fiction because there was such emotion when I said it. Suddenly I had their attention. Santa Claus was no longer a theory. This child, Timmy Clark, was known by the great Claus. It was an electric moment. When I asked what they wanted I would sometimes imply that the great Claus already knew what it was that they had written on their crumpled list. "Yes Timmy, the elves have been working on the big wheel all week." Most of the children didn't really believe in Santa Claus, but even in their skepticism they were ready to believe anyway, for children live in their imagination----adults are journalists but most children are story tellers----they knew I was playing but playing at the truth, a deep truth, the truth that they counted, that they, little person that they were, mattered mightily in the scheme of things. Santa Claus is not a religion, he's magic and magic is mainly imagination, and Imagination is the vivacious the sister of her solemn younger brother Faith. When I was ordained a priest I left my big sister Imagination and joined my little brother Faith. There's a whole book in that. Five years later when I sat in a confessional at Christmas with adults bringing their lists of sins rather than their lists of toys I would remember being Santa Claus and I would say a similar thing I had said to the children, that I was an ambassador for God and that I knew, Timothy, Mr. Clark, that God knows you and God knows you have been struggling with the particular sin in question. I wasn't playing then. People sometimes cried, not out of fear but out of a deep delight perhaps mixed with a profound relief that God was thinking of them and, I would add, thinking of them with such love and tenderness and understanding the way they might think of their own child when troubled, and the electric moment would come again. Now the electric moment did not come, in my opinion, just because of the information conveyed but because a human person they knew, whose scuffed shoes they could see under the curtain, whose squeaky Billy Graham voice they recognized, was telling them they were thought of and loved and deeply, tenderly respected. The best moments was when they went to confession face to face and I said that God knew they were struggling with stealing or lying or adultery or the softer terms impure thoughts, temptations, And they would say things like, "He knows, he cares, he sees me with the eyes of love." And I would try to see them just that way. Now that was Christmas.
Christmas is theologically when God shows up in Jesus, the Son of God thing. God from God, Light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father. Jesus theologically is Jesus theoretically. We proclaim in Papal Bull, encyclical and creed: "There is God in this man. God is born in Bethlehem. The ground of being has become a human being. So be it finally and infallibly. Amen." The real Jesus, one whose diapers Mary changed, is the one who grew up in a mean place and never became a mean person, who looked at you and thought of you tenderly and knew how it was for you to struggle with pain or blindness or disfigurement or poverty or just not being able to catch fish that day. "Throw the net on the other side of the boat; you'll catch a whole weeks worth of fish." Jesus was the one who looked at you, who met your gaze, and suddenly you recalled how priceless and delightful and unspeakably beautiful you were. Then he came closer and reminded you that you were just like him. His little sister, his little brother: God from God, light from light, begotten not made, one in being with our Father who art in heaven. Me, the light of the world? You and me, all of us, the light of the world, should we choose to be.
I have learned something doing therapy. It is a simple thing. But it is crucial. Everyone is longing to be seen. Not just listened to or cared about or healed but to be seen. HERE I AM. We as human persons have been stereotyped, pigeon holed, categorized, called names, tortured, taunted, taken advantage of, made fun of, bullied, enslaved, labeled, diagnosed and dismissed. We all long to be cared about, but cared about for ourselves. When I spent 3 months in silence in the Trappist Monastery and came out to meet people it was startling that everyone was saying underneath what they were talking about: "Here I am, do you see me, please see me as important." It is what Jesus really did for people. The Gospels are full of people that no one really looks at: lepers, cripples, tax collectors, the crazies, the misfits, the whores, and the dead. Suddenly someone shows up and sees them, calls them by name, Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Peter, Nicodemus, Bartholomew, Simon who used to be a leper, Matthew who retired from tax collecting. Jesus sees each of them as a person, not a problem or a disease or an opportunity: a person. He calls their name and they wake from an anonymous sleep. Edgar Cayce tells the story of a man whose lifetimes where forever changed when he noticed Jesus gazing at him from across the market place. At Christmas God looks through human eyes and says, "There you are, I see you." We think Christmas is about God becoming man. I would say it is really about each of us becoming a person, a person seen, seen with astonishment and speechless wonder and seeing each other with astonishment and speechless wonder, and blessing.
Now look at your hands they are the hands of grace. Now think about the eyes you are looking through. They are the eyes of grace. Now look at the faces in the room, they are the faces of God. God sees you and you see God. Lightly touch the person in front of you. Bless them. This is the meaning of Christmas, when light became flesh and flesh becomes a person and God is suddenly everywhere to be seen and blessed. Merry Christmas.
© Copyright Tom Baker 2008