Perhaps something happened in your life, your relationship, or your community and a feeling of dread fell over you.  Maybe you were even depressed for a period of time.  Did you then at some point later all of a sudden become aware of a kind of strength rising up within you?  There is a verb in Latin that names this “strength rising up,” e.g., when grass that has been beaten down by a storm manages to rise back up again.  The word is resilire.  It is where we get the English word resilience.  Because we are putting words on a basic human experience that is very profound, it wouldn’t surprise you that we have other words for this reality.  We might call it hope.  We might call it a kind of empowering force like a wind against our sails.  That’s where I want to focus on this Christmas night—this strength rising up, this resilience, this hope, this empowering force that enables us to move forward, and this birthing of new life that is always going on inside of us.  

What’s a Hermeneutic?

Put that on hold for a moment while we talk about this fancy word, hermeneutic.   This is not a word we use much in ordinary speech.  Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation.  Scholars sometimes use the word hermeneutic to describe a principle by which we interpret things.  The reason this is important to look at is that our insides are determining how we are reading texts and reading reality.  I tend to read texts and even “read” my life itself according to interpretation tendencies I have.  It is better if we are consciously choosing a hermeneutic. 

Tonight I’m proposing a “hermeneutic of Christmas.”  I believe that if we get in touch with “this strength rising up, this resilience, this hope, this empowering force that enables us to move forward, this birthing that is always going on inside of us,” then we will tend to interpret things differently and more in accord with our deepest understandings of life.   This hermeneutic of Christmas allows us to see possibilities that we may not have been able to see. 

Why should we trust this hope or this resilience to be the main way we interpret life?  What if there really is no reason to hope?  The answer is that we can trust our experience.  This thing we call hope is not an intellectual concept.  It is a basic human experience of how our lives actually are.  Let me explain.

What’s Going on in There?

If you meditate you know that when you get down to the deepest layer of yourself, you find the source of what we have been talking about.  You find a kind of birth going on, a kind of process that you have no control over, a life process that is striving to live and to thrive.  The mystics of the Church have named this “gift” or “grace” as an experience of how we are connected to God our source.  And like a color spectrum, it is difficult to see where God ends and we begin and where we end and God begins.  It is in this area that we know that our life is not our own; we are borrowing it; our being is totally dependent on “Being” itself. 

Interpreting My Read on Life

This is the Christmas experience; and it can be the Christmas hermeneutic , i.e., the interpretation principle through which we look at all that is going on around us.  Life is trying to happen.  Life is trying to thrive.  A community (or relationship, or person) can use this Christmas hermeneutic to morph the meaning of what is happening in the direction of more life.  My community is struggling with this or that.  Our relationship is at this kind of impasse.  My life seems in the dumpster at the moment.  The Christmas hermeneutic allows us to interpret things differently and to see the life-giving possibilities in front of us. 

Our lives, our relationships, our community depends on this Christmas hermeneutic.  Through this lens we read situations differently.  A difficult struggle appears differently from the point of view of the emerging strength I notice within me.   Something Godly is being born into the world. 

Christmas 2013
Sts. Clare & Francis
IS 9:1-6

TI 2:11-14

LK 2:1-14
Homily by Frank Krebs

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