Advent season is now passed where we celebrated Emmanuel, meaning “God with us,” and a God who came to be near us. With Jesus’ birth, love is realized and literally ‘down to earth.’
Our first picture of Christ is as a mother’s son– one of the most fundamental and intimate human relationships. Love comes to us in a person; it isn’t in ideas or concepts or Platonic forms but in people and in relationships with God and others. Jesus had a family and friends– some more dear than others.
In the musical Les Miserables, the principle character, Jean Valjean, sings in the closing scene that “To love another person is to see the face of God.” When Moses saw the burning bush, he had to cover his face with a veil for the rest of his life. No one can see the face of God and live. Moses caught a glimpse of God’s reality, and was too holy to be seen again. People are like this in a way because they bear the image of God. They are sacred. Loving the other gets at the center of reality. The fox teaches the prince:
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox.
First you’ll sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings.
But you’ll sit a little closer to me, every day…”
And this is how we become most ourselves. Choosing to love and earning trust. So the individual doesn’t really exist after all– not really. Sure, we all have selves, distinct personalities, certainly distinct souls, and shouldn’t be enmeshed, but we’re made possible by the other. We are defined by our love. Living alone, we become like something inbred. Relationships are creative by nature, and if fresh water doesn’t feed the river, it becomes dirty and stagnate. Human relationships are the main way we experience God, his judgment, and his provision and love. Without each other we turn in on ourselves and become incapable of loving or receiving love, forgiving or receiving forgiveness. From his very first moment on earth, Christ showed us the way to find the face of God.