The Advent of Spiritual Oneness

The Bible is a collection of letters and stories, most handed down from an ancient oral tradition that seems to have begun as early as the 24th Century BCE. These people are typically referred to as proto-Canaanites, and would eventually become known as Canaanites (Phoenicians), Amorites, and Israelites. They were a Semitic, and probably Jewish, culture from the beginning.

In the Bible, we read about the Israeli invasion of Canaan, but we often presume the Canaanites are somehow a completely different people from the Israelites. The fact the story reveals nothing about the Canaanites is indicative of just how closely associated with the Israelites Canaan (Phoenicia) was. They were of the same Semitic blood, and most scholars believe they were probably also Jewish. Yes, the Phoenicians we read about as kids were the people of Canaan, and they were Jews. It is also likely all these people were part of a larger group called the Amorites, whose language was—wait for it—Aramean (the language most plausibly spoken by Jesus).

The history is a little more complicated than my brief summary, but I mention the relationship between the Amorites, Israelites, Canaanites (Phoenicians), etc., because it changes the way we view one of the major stories in the Bible—the Israeli invasion of Canaan. In this story we all know so well, God promises the freed Egyptian slaves a land of their own. Eventually, they end up in Canaan. Now, without knowing the relationship between the Canaanites and the Israelites (they are actually two tribes of the same lineage) we presume the battle over land is a literal, bloody war fought between two different nations. But remember—the Bible is a book with at least two layers to every story. Even if there was an actual war for territory, it was just that—a territorial war. However, it is likely this story is also about the sort of spiritual struggle we go through as we are evolving from one way of thinking about God to another. It’s often painful, and it often pits us against our family.

The Bible doesn’t explain the deep and familial relationship between the Israelites and the Canaanites. The people who were telling this story to each other knew the relationship between Canaan and Israel, so it was unnecessary for them to include the backstory. This lack of backstory makes our task as modern readers of the Bible extra difficult. We need the backstory to understand this as more than a simple story about an ancient war.

To add complexity to an already complex task, the stories in the Bible are highly fictionalized. More than history (at least history the way we think of it in our postmodern era) they were written to convey an ancient people’s ideas about spirituality and our human relationship to God. There are deep spiritual truths revealed throughout the Bible—truths that hold to this day. To find those truths, however, we must peel away the layers of time that have left us disconnected from the original context of the stories.

Advent is one of those stories.

Most churches celebrate Advent as the coming of the birth of Jesus, and at its most basic level, that's fine. But there is a much deeper, spiritual meaning to the entire Advent cycle, from the prophecies of Jesus’ birth through Epiphany. Advent is a story about spiritual birth and enlightenment. It is our story, the story of every human being on the planet, and the journey we all take, whether we realize it or not.

It is time for us to realize we are on a spiritual journey.

Advent is a birth story. It is about that moment when God plants a seed inside of us—a seed that we realize is forming within, getting ready to be born. As we prepare for that birth, we begin to change as human beings. We slowly become more aware of an interconnectedness between all things—not just between other human beings, but also between humans and other animals, plants, even the stars. Our entire species is undergoing a massive spiritual transformation right now—why do you think our scientists are discovering how intrinsically connected to the stars we are? Carl Sagan used to say famously "we are all star stuff," because we now know that the fundamental building blocks of life came from massive stellar explosions billions and billions (thanks, Carl) of years ago. We're literally connected to the stuff of God.

But the realization of this connectedness—a realization of Oneness, comes slowly, over time, like giving birth. We don't get pregnant and then have a baby the next day. It takes months of nurturing, and even after our child is born, it takes years of support and love for our beloved child to make her or his way in the world. The same is true for every human being even as we crawl back into old age.

God births us and is born inside of us with every breath we take. We are constantly evolving into more spiritually attuned beings. This Christ child whose birth so many of us celebrate (and take for granted) this season is not only born once into this world in Jesus. Jesus is one of the greatest stories ever told not only because Jesus was an awesome human being, but also because the Christ that was born in him also resides within every one of us, gestating, waiting to be born.

Advent is more than a simple birth narrative about a child born 2000 years ago. It's a potent metaphor about our task as human beings to care for the spiritual child within, bring it to term, and nurture it in a world that, as it did in Jesus' day, still too often rejects a child of hope, peace, joy, and love.

Meditation: Holy God of love and light, help me see, read, and think more deeply about your birth within me and everyone I see today. Amen.

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