Bono’s thoughts on Advent from an extended interview he did in 2004:
I remember coming back from a very long tour. I hadn’t been at home for months. Got home for Christmas, very excited of being in Dublin. Dublin at Christmas is cold, but it’s lit up, it’s like a Carnival in the cold.
On Christmas Eve, I went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I had done school there for a year. It’s where Jonathan Swift was Dean. Anyway, some of my Church of Ireland friends were going. It’s kind of a tradition on Christmas Eve to go, but I’d never been. I went to this place, sat. I was given a really bad seat, behind one of the huge pillars. I couldn’t see anything. I was sitting there, having come back from Tokyo or somewhere like that. I went for the singing, because I love choral singing. Community arts, a specialty! But I was falling asleep, being up for a few days, traveling, because it was a bit boring, the service, and I just started nodding off since I couldn’t see a thing.
Then I started to try and keep myself awake studying what was on the page. It dawned on me for the first time, really. It had dawned on me before, but it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that God, if there is a force of Love and Logic in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in poverty, in shit and straw…a child…I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry…unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was.
I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came down my face, and I saw the genius of this, the utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this. You see, love needs to find form, intimacy needs to be whispered. To me, it makes sense. It’s actually logical. It’s pure logic. Essence has to manifest itself. It’s inevitable. Love has to become an action or something concrete. It would have to happen. There must be an incarnation. Love must be made flesh.
My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ taught that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in raw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now, that’s not easy.
There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable.
But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the Universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma. I really believe we have moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it.
And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so will you sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep shit. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
(From Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas, copyright 2006, Riverhead Books)