The eleventh-century Islamic mystic Kwaja Abdullah Ansari once said, “My God, I left behind the whole world to search for you. But you were the whole world, and I could not see it.” From our Jewish heritage, the Psalmist proclaims this message in a similar way, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)

During the Christmas Season, we as Christians rejoice in sharing the good news that God became flesh in a unique way in the person of Jesus. We hear the Christmas story and realize that it is not only the Creator God who is Lord of the earth but that God became part of this world in human form as one of us. One might think that we are to leave this world behind to discover the glory of God; but God chose to make it simple – to become one of us, to be recognized in human form and to teach us to see God’s presence in one another.

Those eager to come close to God have sometimes thought that we can only see God if we escape this world. Some have even looked forward to their deaths so they could be drawn into the nearer presence of God in heaven. But God did not create this world to be a distraction from the good news of God’s love. We discover the nature of God in the beauty of the world itself, in loving relationships with one another, and as we let love become part of our lives – love incarnate -- as it was so remarkably seen in Jesus.

My friend, Carolyn Goddard, expressed this thought beautifully in a prayer. “May we rest in that presence that gives us serenity, courage, wisdom – and restructures our very being into love Incarnate.”

The divine presence is here to be experienced in our lives together. We don’t have to leave the whole world behind. God revealed his presence with us in human form to bring us joy.

Granted much of life is filled with strife. It’s not always a pretty scene. But in Jesus’ life, we see what to do with this grief. Moving from a manger to a cross, Jesus taught us to remain true to Love at any cost. Love suffers but wins in the end. The cross teaches us to forgive. Love can bring peace out of strife. This is the message we hear especially at Christmas and learn to live day by day in the world God has given us.

Life has many challenges, but our vision encourages us not to leave the world behind but to look more deeply into it. As Edward Hays wrote, “Not by fasting or the penance of denial will I find the Divine Lover I seek, but in plunging hungrily deep in the sea of the God-in-flesh of this world.”