“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God”
In Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s epic, nine-book poem “Aurora Leigh” Aurora, an aspiring writer, is trying to make sense of how an artist can write about both earthly, temporal things and spiritual, eternal things at once.
In some of the most beautiful lines of poetry ever written, Browning summarizes what so many have struggled to connect about the dual elements of nature and spirit. They exist, she tells us, as necessary parts of the same whole, joined inseparably through their creator who fashioned them both. She warns readers that if “we divide this apple of life” it will perish “as utterly as if we ate both halves.”
When Jesus Christ descended his royal throne to come to earth in the form of a squalling infant, the spiritual became as mundane as the earthy, dark stable to which it emerged. In every way, this tiny human was as normal and natural as “a tree, a leaf, a common stone.” Nothing about him signaled his divinity, and yet, this Emmanuel, God with us, was the very breath of God, warm and real, enrobed in human flesh.
What does it mean to be with?
Webster’s Dictionary defines it in part as a word that “indicates a manner of action” (e.g.: She ran the race with effort). In this context, to be with someone requires an active role, a choice to be in the moment.
Jesus with us is God’s choice to walk alongside us in empathetic care and to open the way to total reconciliation with him. Our job is to embrace that gift by taking the time to notice, to really see elements of the divine in the everyday.
As Browning says in her poem, “nothing’s small!” Every created thing, every task, every beautiful moment is “built up to eternal significance through the open arms of God.” When we can look at every part of our lives as eternally significant, we begin to see with the eyes of God. We can see “every common bush afire with God” and know to take off our shoes for we stand on holy ground. Without that vision, Browning warns, all we can do is “sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
This Christmas, dare to see the world with the eyes of God. There is divinity in the smallest of moments, Christ in and among us. Blessings to you and yours this Christmas season.
Sara Whetstone, Teacher & Vice Principal
Hamilton District Christian High