The path that Jesus walked and taught was like pumping bellows—a constant filling and emptying—always celebrating with reckless abandon; then letting it all go. That’s why Jesus did not practice renunciation as his later followers might do. Nor did he constrict himself with moral injunctions as his later followers might do. Not attempting to conserve anything, he wasn’t bound by poverty consciousness. Needing nothing, he had and enjoyed everything. Then he gave it all away.
Take for instance the story of the woman with the alabaster jar. In it was contained a very expensive perfume. Oh but the disciples were indignant. “What a waste!” they cried as this woman poured her perfume on his head. I imagine Jesus taking in the aromas, perhaps losing himself for a moment in the ecstasy of it all. I imagine he lived much of his life this way, allowing every sensual experience to fill him. Then letting it all go.
That’s the trick after all. He didn’t grasp or cling, not even to his own life. He could starve in the desert and be perfectly full. When the devil temps him, he simply replies that human beings do not live by bread alone. Yet, later, when a decent loaf of bread is properly available, I’m sure he savored every morsel until he was full.
It’s tricky, understanding such indulgence. It’s not exactly hedonistic. It’s not purposefully setting out to indulge in worldly pleasures for self-satisfying gain. Jesus simply allowed the good things in life to fill him when they were available. Like properly eating a piece of cake. You don’t have to indulge in a large piece of cake to get your fill. One small piece or slice properly savored and enjoyed is quite enough. Then you leave the rest for others to enjoy.
Jesus himself said, “I came that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) His birth is a celebration meant to bring glad tidings of great joy to all. Glad tidings, good news, the gospel. What is this gospel? That life is good of course. Life is good. Life is precious. Life is whole. Life is meant to be lived. Repent simply means getting into a larger mindset which includes the heart. The Greek term is metanoia. It’s a change of mind, but more than that. It’s connecting the mind with the true heart.
That’s why it was never about guilt, shame, or regret. On the contrary. It’s about opening to a greater way of being that draws you straight into the kingdom of God, the human heart, where Christ is forever born—realized and recognized here and now.
Forever being born, forever dying too. Filling and emptying, like the bellows. Filling and self-emptying, like the three persons of the Trinity engaged in their circle dance. As Richard Rohr says, “The unending flow of giving and receiving between Father, Son, and Spirit is the pattern of reality.”
It’s this pattern of reality into which the Christ is born and into which we are being led. Therefore, this Christmas season, indulge explicitly in the beauty that presents itself: your family, your friends, a holiday treat, the eyes of a homeless wanderer, the weather whatever it is, cherished music, a bit of rest, perhaps even a tear or two. Then, remember the golden key that makes this path a viable spiritual path. Cling to none of it. Let it all go. Empty yourself that another may be filled.
Happy holidays to everyone.