Mysticism, Mission and Malevolence

Bruce Epperly

By Bruce Epperly

Meditating on the mood and symbol of Christmas, African American mystic Howard Thurman reflected, "It is a quickening of the presence of other human beings into whose lives a precious part of one's own has been released.  It is a memory of other days when into one's path an angel appeared spreading a halo over an ordinary moment or commonplace event.  It is an iridescence of sheer delight that bathed one's whole being with something more wonderful than words can ever tell. . . . It is the rainbow arched over the roof of the sky when the clouds are heavy with foreboding.  It is the cry of life in the new born babe when, forced from its mother's breast, it claims its right to live... It is the promise of tomorrow at the close of every day, the movement of life in defiance of death, and the assurance that love is sturdier than hate, that right is more confident than wrong, that good is more permanent than evil" (The Growing Edge, pp. 117-118).

The Christmas season in scripture and daily life is ambiguous for the preacher and congregation alike.  "It's the most wonderful time of the year" as we, like magi of old, come presenting gifts to those we love.  Around every corner, "there's a song in the air, there's a star in the sky," as we like the shepherds behold glory in the commonplace.  For a moment, our hearts are lifted and softened, as we notice the holiness of spouses, partners, children, congregants, and checkers at the store.

We pastors need these feelings of wonder, beauty, and holiness.  We need a "halo over an ordinary moment."  This is the surprising wonder of incarnation that makes all of us mystics.

Read the rest of the article at Patheos here.