In the parish of my youth it was a practice to fall down on one knee at the creedal phrase "for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man." This small gesture of collapsing onto the kneeling rail brought a profound sense of mystery, awe and fascination in my age of theological innocence. All I knew then was that I felt deeply humble and grateful to kneel weekly before the Christmas miracle. This was before seminary; before the time of intellectual arrogance and before a lifetime of parish ministry where my halo became crooked and bent and my soul was gradually chipped raw by the foibles of ecclesiastical machinations. It has only been in retirement that my soul has been restored and healed and I can once again behold the glory of the infant Christ and feel deeply the Incarnatus. Behold, I am young again and this is very, very good.
The Celtic Church knew all about this. Thomas Cahill writes that the Celts owned an incarnational world view: "Our Father in heaven, having created all things, even things that have become bent or gone bad, will deliver us, his children, from all evil. But our Father is not only in faraway heaven, but lives among us. For he created everything by the Word, which was with him in the beginning, which became flesh in the human Jesus, and flames out in all creatures."
Like the early Christians, the Celts saw no separation between heaven and earth; mystery and phenomena. Christ was very near indeed; near in the earth, near in the sea, near in the heavens, near in the soul. The Incarnation was alive and well in the ancient Celtic Church, which is represented in these familiar words: "Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger." This is Christmas within the yearning human soul; the baby Jesus embedded in the very flesh of every human being.
As we have learned from Quantum Physics that a particle can be in one place and everywhere else simultaneously, we believe that the Word became one human being, Jesus, and is everywhere else in the universe. The majestic Anglican notion of the Incarnation is that the Word is present in all of broken humanity, in the cosmos, in the earth and interstellar space. As Paul wrote, "nothing can separate us from the love of Christ."
On behalf of our Episcopal Journey authors, I pray and hope that you will have an insanely joyful celebration of the Incarnation of the Word of God.