Advent 2013: True Stories

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Maybe you've heard the adage, "This story didn't happen, but it's true." For fact-obsessed Westerners, it's hard for us to understand that sometimes.

I love the Christmas story. I grew up with a very literal understanding of it. There were 3 Wise Men, shepherds watching their flocks by night, and Mary was definitely a virgin.

I don't begrudge anyone their fact-finding. But as I've grown older, the story has taken on more meaning for me as I've let go of what "really happened." Particularly the story of Mary. I used to work with street kids--homeless, dirty, abandoned or abused, and many of them addicted. I imagine one of THEM bringing God into the world, and I can tell you none of the babies born to those girls were virgin births. When I think about God's entrance onto the human scene, I'm more transformed by the idea that it wasn't a virgin birth, but an accidental pregnancy. And it wasn't a warm barn with sweet-smelling hay, but a cold and dirty temporary shelter for a family on the margins who needed some help. If that's where God was born, it changes everything. It means you can experience Love even when you don't have money for Christmas gifts and you're dreading seeing your dad. It means light comes out of the darkness and, in fact, needs the darkness. It means transcendence isn't about Christmas crafts and harmony, but about being right where you are and paying attention.

Rumi says, "Out beyond ideas of right and wrong, there's a field. I'll meet you there." Who knows what really happened on that nativity night? But I do know this field is beautiful, it's wide open, and there's space for all of us.