I don’t remember a time when I was not a Christian believer. I am not immune to doubt, but nor am I tormented and plagued by it. I often have moments, though, when I lose my bearings for a while; when I am overcome by a sense of what the Apostle Paul recognized as ‘the foolishness of the gospel’. Christianity, for me, is not just a system of ethics, or a sense of the sacred or a set of religious ideals. It is a way of knowing the world and living in it which is built around the belief that God is with us above all in the birth and life, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is one of those times when my head can start to spin, as I reflect on how particular this story is. Some days I start to feel a bit foolish about the claim that this baby is God incarnate, God in the flesh.
In those moments of restless wondering, which come close to doubt, I often look around at my options. I see plenty of stars moving in my part of the sky. The blunt bravery of materialism: it is what it is, suck it up and get on with it while it lasts, because it won’t last. The mindful and respectful spirituality of the western Buddhist orders, urging us to slow down and be attentive to all that is. The disciplined devotions of Islam, the ancient spiritual traditions of Hinduism and Sikhism, the baffled and tolerant humility of agnosticism, the unpredictable spiritual cocktails of new age spirituality.
The wondering never stops, but neither does the wonder. It’s this story that compels me and attracts me: this baby, those shepherds, these angels, this stable. I can see the other stars moving. But, for me at least, this is where the star has stopped.