Day Twelve in "The Journey of the Wise Men: Twelve Days and Twelve Ways to Deepen Your Spiritual Practice"
You've come at last to the full mystery of Christmas. "Divinity became humanity that humanity might become divinity," said St. Athanasius in the East and St. Augustine in the West. God in Christ and Christ in us, the full presence of God (Colossians 1.27). Your heart is now the home of God, and God the home within your heart. Before this mystery your mind stands dumb; reason cannot think its way across this chasm and bring you home.
But love can. Love will carry you into the intimate union you were made for. When you love you cannot be anywhere else but present. Up till now you've lived far, far away---always somewhere else, distant from God and from your true self, not present to the Presence. But that's changed now.
You've come all this way to Bethlehem only to realize that what you sought in this far away land was not far away after all. It was in you, but you were outside yourself. You were conscious of everything else but absent to the one thing that really matters. Now you're different---you've entered your inmost self and found the sacred center, the place you can enter wherever you are and whenever you want. You're more present now to the Presence. This is the essence of prayer.
So you needn't stay on this mountain. You can return to writing emails and going to meetings, changing diapers and washing dishes. Go ahead, paint a wall, teach third graders, walk in the woods. But as you do, take another approach (Matthew 2.12): be present. When you are, everything changes. When you're present, you're no longer anxiously looking everywhere else for happiness or fulfillment. You're no longer resisting this moment, even if it's awful; it's awful largely because you want to be elsewhere. When you're present, no longer haunted by the past or obsessing about the future, it's very hard to be unhappy. When you're present, you're as near as you can be to God---who's as close as your next breath, near as the beating of your heart.
Today, when I get knocked around or confused or sucked too long into the past or future, I'll return to the present---the face before me, the task at my fingertips, the breath filling my lungs. And in this moment I'll return to the happiness of Christmas: God in Christ and Christ in me.
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