Three Christmas Meditations, 2019: #1 Personal

About ten years ago, I wrote a song that was a meditation on one of the names associated with the Christmas story (Matthew 1:23): Immanuel, which means God with us.

In all of the bottomless wells of meaning and mystery associated with sacred stories, this one has become more and more precious to me this year: the Christmas story tells me that God is not a distant potentate, existing in a separate realm or dimension, occasionally reaching in to flip a switch or change an election result or create a win for my side. Rather, God is with us in human experience … from womb to tomb, in glory and squalor, in healing and struggle, in love and betrayal, in service and suffering, in breathless rush and unhurried rest, in loneliness and community, in paralysis and death and despair, in breakthrough and new beginning and resurrection.

With us. Here.

Here’s that song in a simple “scratch” recording.


For me, a lover of nature (which I had the opportunity to celebrate this year with my new book on the Galapagos Islands), I cherish the mystery that God is with us, not only in human experience, but also in the entire web of life, the 14 billion year story from big bang to a verdant, green earth. I look out my window now, and in oak and dogwood trees, in grass, in crow, blue jay, and junco, in soil and seasons … God is with us, here.

Moving from the simple to the sublime, each year I keep returning to a favorite choral rendering of this mystery, O Magnum Mysterium, which you can savor here:


Here is the lyric in translation:

Latin text

O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera meruerunt portare Dominum Christum.

English translation

O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb was worthy to bear Christ the Lord.

Perhaps today, you can hold this mystery in a spirit of contemplation: God, with us, here.

Be still and know.