Meister Eckhart was a 13th century German Dominican who distinguished himself as a theologian and mystic. He taught that the real meaning of Christmas is not only that God’s Son was born in a stable, but that Christ is born in us. His most famous sermon, usually presented first in collections of his writings, was preached on Christmas morning. It begins with this summary:
Here in time we celebrate the eternal birth that God the Father bore and still bears constantly in eternity, and which is also now born in time, in human nature. St. Augustine says that this birth is happening continually. We should ask ourselves: If it doesn’t happen in me, what good is that birth after all? What ultimately matters is that God’s birth should happen in me.
What good is it, Meister Eckhart asks, that Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago if he is not also born in me?
“How can this be?” we say with Mary. How is Christ to be born in me?
The answer is the same, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you. It is God himself who will accomplish this in you.” You have only to be, like Mary, quiet, open-hearted and receptive to the Spirit at work within you. Say with her, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
How can we cultivate a spirit of quiet receptivity like Mary’s? Let me suggest three ways:
• By opening our hearts to wonder. It is remarkable that the world is, that we are here, that we can experience it. Open your eyes to see it, your ears to hear it, your hands to touch it – and be amazed! Everyday!
• By cultivating a spirit of gratitude. Give thanks for the world, for the beauty of the earth, for the wonder of human existence, for the gift of life. Give thanks for each person you know, those you love and those you find difficult to love. Open your eyes to the beauty and wonder of every person – and be thankful.
• By opening our hearts to compassion. An open heart feels the suffering and pain of the world and responds to it. Compassion and a passion for justice go together. “The purpose of the Christian life,” writes Marcus Borg, “is to become more and more compassionate beings.”
“We are all meant to be mothers of God…,” wrote Meister Eckhart, “for God is always needing to be born.” Open your hearts and let him be born in you.