A Very Process Christmas

by Bruce Epperly

Epperly picLet me be the first person to wish you “A Very Process Christmas.” Process theology and Christmas just seem to fit together. That might surprise you, especially since process theology asserts that God acts naturally, through the regular processes of nature, and not supernaturally, showing up from the outside every so often to overturn the laws of nature to perform a miracle or defeat an enemy. Just the same, process theology joyfully proclaims the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph’s beloved child, and the boy who grew up to be healer, reconciler, prophet, and world-changer. God was in the stable and God is in our lives, too! Every day is an advent adventure in which can train eyes for signs of new birth in a world of threat and challenge.
Alfred North Whitehead asserts that the world lives by the incarnation of God. God moves everywhere and in all things, seeking beauty and love. Each moment emerges from God’s inner inspiration. God midwifes each person’s journey, seeking to bring forth the holiness within. God seeks abundant life for every creature, urging all things toward wholeness.
The world incarnates God! Emmanuel, “God with us,” is just as real today as it was in Bethlehem’s stable. A child is born in Bethlehem and a baby cries in a refugee camp, recalling the fact that shortly after Jesus’ birth, the holy family set out on a refugee journey to Egypt.
Walt Whitman once said, “All is miracle.” Meister Eckhart affirmed that “all things are words of God.” Julian of Norwich rejoiced that something as small as a hazelnut contained the fullness of God’s energy. If a hazelnut can emerge from the fullness of God, so can the baby growing in a mother’s womb.
Process theology proclaims that each moment is an epiphany and every encounter an incarnation. Christ is in us, and we can become Christ-bearers in our place and time.
Bethlehem’s stable is not an anomaly but the revelation of what God is doing everywhere. Our world is full of wonder, and the same love that grew day by day in Mary’s womb grows in every person’s life.   God gives life to our souls, but also our cells, even at the moment of conception.
The birth of Jesus expresses the wonder-full world in which we live. The child in the manger is a miracle child, manifesting God’s holy light and giving light to all creation. But, my grandchildren and the children in your life are also “miracles,” energetic incarnations of divine love. They too take birth in an amazing, complicated, and often challenging world.
At Christmas, we listen for angelic voices, and for process theologians there are angels around every corner. Every moment brings a message from God and divine messengers abound. God’s angelic messengers speak in our hearts, inviting us to share in the birth of God in our world today.
God also comes to us as the magi from the East, revealing God’s many-faceted wisdom giving life to every authentic spiritual quest. The unique revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth also shines in the holy words and people of other faith traditions.
Christmas celebrates God’s birth in a baby in an occupied land. Today, Christ’s brothers and sisters will take birth among Syrian refugees, inner city parents, Appalachian coal miners, grieving relatives in San Bernardino, Paris, and Beirut, and suburban households.
The word lives by the incarnation of God! Look under the Christmas tree and you’ll discover God with us. Have a very process Christmas!

Bruce Epperly is the author of over 35 books and a number of Energion titles, including “Finding God in Suffering: A Journey with Job” and “Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God.”
https://energiondirect.com/authors/authors-d-k/bruce-epperly

6 Responses

    • This interview was a great deal of fun, and very challenging. We’ll be starting our Tuesday night hangouts again in January, with the first on January 5. We’ll be announcing those here on the EDN site. Watch the sidebar to the left for more information.

  • Process theology solves a very vexing question for me. What is God’s relationship to the people of other faith traditions not Christian? The Incarnation as “God with all” as represented in Jesus, and working in all people, satisfies me on this question. It’s no wonder Jesus said to love our enemies; they are as we are, vessels of God in the world. Strife between peoples will finally end when we embrace this reality. Until then, we will continue to obscure “God with all.”

    • I think you are correct here, Steve! While I would raise specific questions re Bruce’s take on matters of omniscience and ‘ will’ as noted in my post, this sense of ‘ God with all’ and the rejection of exclusivism are significant contributions in a process approach-
      Bob

  • Hi Bruce:
    I have very much appreciated what I have read of your work and wish I could be part of the live discussion tomorrow night! I do have a few questions regarding how you approach certain matters within this ‘process’ framework. These questions are for clarification and most certainly are not intended in a critical spirit. I just know I am writing to someone who has a handle on process theology and I want to ask:
    With respect to God……………….
    – Is God in any sense a separate reality from creation?
    – Does God possess omniscience? Does God know what I am thinking? Can God see our individual lives unfold? In other words, is there such a reality as a ‘personal God’? In this context, what might praying TO God mean?
    – Along those lines, does God INTEND? Does God INTEND specific actions to be done by specific people?
    A broad question…….What would you cite as sources for a process view? By this, I do not mean Biblical ‘proof texts’…
    I really wish I could be around for tomorrow night’s conversation. You are a very good writer and I am sure you are a terrific teacher. I would be interested in your take on these matters..
    THANKS for your great contributions to the fields of theology and ministry-
    Merry Christmas to you and your beloved..
    Bob LaRochelle

  • I just want to say that years ago, at least more or less 20 years ago, I had an epiphany, and this article has brought the whole realization back. I remember where I was–resting in my bed in Klamath Falls. On the wall directly in front of me, was a large poster, which Ted had given to me, of a beautiful waterfall! I was reading from E. J. Waggoner about how “the ‘Word’ was made flesh….” He went back to Creation, and paraphrased thus: “the ‘Word’ was made ‘light,’ ‘firmament,’ ‘grass and trees,’ etc…..” Then he went on to explain how the “‘Word’ is made flesh” in each human being; in a particular way in the “child of God,” who has experienced the “new birth.” “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the Sons of God…” “Beloved, now are we the Sons of God….” “Wherefore, He is not ashamed to call us brethren….” And He lets us call His Father, “Our Father!”
    As I contemplated these ideas, it came over me like the flowing waterfall in my poster, ALL of Creation, the entire universe, is the incarnation of God!!!” It is the “sanctuary,” the dwelling place of God. Here is a statement from Ellen White: “The cross is a revelation
    to our dull senses of the pain which from the very beginning, sin has brought to the heart of God.” And, “God is the Life of everything that lives.” Paul tells us that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being…” When he in Romans 8 exclaims that the “whole creation groans and travails, waiting for the redemption of the body,” that is, “His” body, and He is “groaning and travailing.” Mother loves these thoughts from Ellen White, that “God has His finger upon the pulse” of His creation, and “every throb of pain reaches to the Father’s heart.”
    The sacrament of the bread and wine is not merely a symbol. The bread which Christ ate and the wine which He drank had truly become His body and blood the next day when He was crucified. It was the same body that was raised the third day. The disciples partook of the same bread and wine. The sacrament is a celebration of the incarnation, which began at the creation of all things, the creation of Angels, then became more intimate in the creation of our world. Then God made man in His image with the power of procreation, which was an even deeper intimacy of Creator and Creature.
    I love the way John W Peterson puts it in his Christmas Cantata, “O Glorious Night!” (Ted gave me this Cantata on cassette all those years ago. I still have it. I have searched for it on the Internet, but it seems to have disappeared. I still have the book with the words and music. Even the book I could not find. I love this Cantata!)
    “Holy, Holy mystery!
    Nothing like it in all history–
    Son of God, and still the Son of Man!
    And Mary she was chosen to be the holy Mother,
    Yes, she completed the design;
    And by the Holy Spirit she then was overshadowed,
    And her conception was divine.”
    And from the gospel:
    “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, Mary, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee;therefore that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
    There is a Son of Man standing in the highest heaven Who is the Son of God, a union of the human and divine, one with all creation. Man was made through his fleshly body to be one with the creature, and through his higher powers to be one with the divine. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….All things were made by Him…. And the Word was made flesh….” The Christ loved to call Himself the “Son of Man!”
    “O, that You were my brother, who sucked the breasts of my Mother,…then I would kiss you, and would not be ashamed. I would bring you into my Mother’s tent….” Then I realized with an overwhelming certainty and joy, He IS my brother, and His Father IS my Father, and His Mother IS my Mother!
    Well, there it is. I do not know if it has anything to with “Process Theology,” but I do believe that the world, the universe, yes, the whole creation lives by and is the incarnation of God. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only ‘begotten’ Son… Thou art my Son, this day [in space and time] have I ‘begotten’ thee…. Unto ‘us’ a child ‘born,’ unto ‘us’ a Son is ‘given.’ Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son….”– Son of God and Man. (This is the importance of the, so-called in the KJV, “begats!”)
    And, “Brown paper packages tied up with string…” –one of “my favorite things!”
    The gift of the Creator is wrapped in the Creature. “Heaven enshrined in humanity, and humanity enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love.” (Ellen White.)
    I will close now. May your day be blessed as has mine already this morning with the lovely “pictures from memory’s hall.” (A quote from Ellen White which Mother loves to quote to me, that we are to hang ONLY beautiful pictures in “memory’s all,” the Art/Photo Gallery of the soul! Ugly pictures there ‘are for all of us in our memory, but we are NOT required to hang them upon the walls of the Gallery!”
    (Note: This comment was sent to me by my sister Betty Rae and I’m posting it here with her permission. Betty Rae is author of EnerPower Press title Words of Life, Light, and Love. — Henry Neufeld)

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