O Come Let us Adore Him Adoration in Process Perspective
Adoration combines gratitude and hope, attention and wonder. It appreciates intrinsic value of another living being: an infant, for example. It has nothing to do with gushing or a sense of cuteness. It is deeper than that: a quiet resting in the presence of something undeniably beautiful.
For many of us the hardest part is the silence. Our minds are chatterboxes, filled with agendas for the day. We are always in a hurry, on our way toward a happiness that never quite arrives. We find it difficult to rest in silence because we are so busy, inwardly if not also outwardly, there’s no time for sentimentality, no time for resting in silence. And for some of us, the problem is intensified by preoccupations with status. We want to be noticed or recognized by others, and the whole idea of being attentive to something outside ourselves, without referring to ourselves, gets in the way of our perpetual quest for status. Nevertheless, if we encounter something that if in fact adorable, we have moments of adoration, despite ourselves.
For many people, these moments occur in the presence of infants. Just for a moment, they - we - are taken outside of ourselves, outside our hurriedness and preoccupations with status. The moment may last only for a second or two, but we feel it.
I like to think that the shepherds and the magi experienced a moment of adoration in the presence of the infant Jesus. It doesn't matter whether the stories about them are factually true; they are mythically true. According to the myth they knew that the child carried something beautiful and radiant, something divine, in his very body and that his very birth was of unparalleled importance for the future of the world.
Every infant carries this beauty and radiance; every infant is of importance to the world; every infant is a form of divine radiance, no matter how sticky. The birth of Jesus was not an exception to other infants, but an expression of all births. Yes, Jesus' role in world history has been unique. Few are as famous as he. And for Christians, as Whitehead proposes below, there is a world historical truth not only in his birth but in the whole of his life. In Adventures of Ideas Whitehead writes:
The essence of Christianity is the appeal to the life of Christ as a revelation of the nature of God and of his agency in the world...But there can be no doubt as to what elements in the record have evoked a response from all that is best in human nature. The Mother, the Child, and the bare manger: the lowly man, homeless and self-forgetful, with his message of peace, love, and sympathy: the suffering, the agony, the tender words as life ebbed, the final despair: and the whole with the authority of supreme victory.
Still, Jesus was fully human. He was born from a womb, he cried upon entering the world, he was held by his mother, and surely he had tantrums. When the mythical shepherds and magi saw him, they sensed a freshness, an innocence, a purity.
When an infant comes into the world, something fresh enters the world. This freshness is frightening for the infant; the world is such a strange and terrifying place. It was for Jesus. And yet the mother smiles as she holds him, because something - or, better, someone - has emerged who gives her hope and who is in fact hope incarnate. We who have not given birth share in this hope, at least for a moment. We feel the presence of infants as hope incarnate. And in this hope, for a moment, we experience God. In process theology God is not a manipulator who molds the world according to whim, or a playwrite who creates a script and then watches the world unfold according to a pre-written plan, but rather a hope-giver: that is, a source of fresh possibilities. In their freshness infants are a window to this source. This includes the infant Jesus.
Babies provide an occasion to realize what life is really about. Not fame, fortune, and power. Not prestige, money, and marketable achievement. But rather love for the least of these: the very young, the very old, and all in-between. And the animals and Earth as well, The whole of it.