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I am called to be a little re-Incarnation
of the Messiah:
in the Spirit,
goes about doing good;
who is known for living
and proclaiming this
all consuming, all inclusive Love
Someone who, like Jesus, loves…
(Inspired by Isaiah 58; 61. Luke 4.18. Matthew 11.1-4; 25. Acts 10.34-38. Galatians 5.14)
“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
(The Good News of Luke 1: 67-79)
“God became one of us and…pitched his tent in our midst.”
Clarence Jordan (Cotton Patch Sermons)
Since Christmas Eve is actually the last day of Advent, I thought I would muse a bit about the spectacular nature of this Sacred Season. So, this morning I received an email and in it this pastor was saying that no words can adequately convey God’s love for human life. I thought to myself that he may be right; no mere words can truly express God’s desire to be so close to us and to love us. My first thought was well the Incarnation is as good as it gets in describing that truth.
Think about it: God wanted to be so close to you and me that God put on flesh and became one of us! Pause for just a moment and really ponder that truth, the truth of what Christmas is ALL about. Ponder and personalize it:
God wanted you to know how much you are loved, wanted to be so near you, that God put on flesh and became just like you.
God spared NO expense to be close to us, to love us, to show that love to us! Now even if you do not believe in the virgin birth or that the Incarnation is real, still ponder the notion that God would do such a thing to prove his love to you and me.
That truth to me makes this a time of true hopefulness – a kairos moment pregnant with God. Kairos, the Greek word for time, is unlike the human concept of time, chronos, meaning “chronological time.” Kairos has to do with a divine visitation, a rending of the veil of human time when God comes to dwell among his people in an extraordinary way. The Incarnation is a Kairos moment that happened at a specific chronological time…an Infinite Moment held delicately within a finite one. It’s downright scandalous.
The Incarnation is both mind-boggling and paradox. Mind boggling in that almighty God would actually limit Godself by becoming flesh; paradox in that God comes to us through the fragile vulnerability of a helpless, newborn child who is Messiah. And the paradox of the Incarnation continues: God did not choose to come as a powerful military King Messiah ready to liberate the Jewish people with force from the brutal and ongoing occupation of the Roman Empire.
It seems God had different plans.
Instead, God chose to come to us as a naked, helpless baby born to a poor, unwed teenage mother in a land under the oppressive occupation of an Empire. That fact alone defies all logic and reason. Who would be more marginalized and dispossessed than Mary? Who could be farther from the seat of power? But it within this zeitgeist that the Incarnation happens; God did not come as a warrior God with a large army, a boon of gold, and a taste for control. No, God came to us, as one of us, choosing to make himself known in fragility and poverty – a far cry from how most people thought Messiah would come.
Every year at Advent we are offered the chance for reflecting that God comes to us as he did 2,000 years ago: in helplessness; in the tenderness of new life given during a dark time; in the promise of hope when all seems lost.
And let us remember too that Advent is not only a coming, it is also an opportunity for us to remember during darker days that God is asking us again to allow our very lives to become, like Mary, a sacred womb where Hope can be born anew within us and indeed within the world.
“Advent is a season of the secret of Divine Love growing in Silence…”
Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means “a coming.” In the busy days of the Christmas season, it seems Advent has become more of ‘a coming and going and rushing about’ than a pregnant pausing to celebrate the coming of Messiah.
One of the things that bothers me the most about this time of year, more than the blatant and rampant consumerism, is the edgy “busy’ness” of it all. Like hamsters on a treadmill going nowhere fast, we run from store to store, party to party, event to event, never taking the time to pause and reflect upon the momentous occasion of the true “Coming” that this season is based upon.
Advent is meant to be a time of pausing, a time of seeking the Great Silence away from the rush and temptation of every little thing that tugs at our attention. It is about taking the time to stop time: to reflect upon the miracle of the Infinite rending the veil of time, thereby making all that is finite pregnant with the Holy.
Advent is a time of deepening spirituality. And rather than some highfalutin concept, spirituality is more of a Velveteen rabbit-like experience of sensing God’s movement and Love in my life in ever deepening ways, especially when things seem darkest.
Advent is, as well, a specific liturgical time of sensing God’s movement in my life and in the world around me. It is an intentional time of pausing to look for the Holy in all the ways it is embodied around us. During Advent, we are reminded to allow the Spirit to transform our lives into “living mangers” – places where Christ can be born anew and afresh in us and in a world crying out for divine love.
This time of year is a time for God to come to all of us once again, in tenderness and smallness, in ways and places that we may not normally look for God: like a manger (a feeding trough to be exact) or the distressing disguise of the homeless; the numerous people waiting in line at the soup kitchen; the forgotten and lonely or those struggling with addictions; the person next to us in line at the store. All of these are moments when we can both experience and be Christ.
In these last days of Advent, may this be a time when God comes to each and every one of us in deliberate ways, ways known only to us, special ways that afford us the opportunity to renew our faith, discovering the depths and richness of God’s love and compassion for us and the world.
So as we continue to journey on into these days of Advent, let us all pause…
and take time…
to recognize the Holy Presence that surrounds us.
This is a delicious Advent poem from Kayla McClurg, one of the shepherd’s at the Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. I was a member, friend and participant of the CoS for about 7 years. God used one of the founders of the church, N. Gordon Cosby, to alter my life and path. So, I am forever grateful for the presence and ministries of the Church of the Saviour and all who sustain it and embody God’s love through it.
Enjoy Kayla’s poetic words and rather than just celebrate Christmas, may the Spirit transform us so that we Become Christmas!
For December 21, 2014 – Luke 1:26-38
Even if one of the women hadn’t nearly delivered
her seven-pound baby girl right on the front porch,
I surely would have been writing this poem.
A poem about ill-timed gifts
and no place like home
and what a fine mess we’ve got into this time.
A poem about the coming of Christmas.
It’s impossible to live so near the homeless heart
and not think a lot about Christmas.
journey alone on dark and rocky roads
without resources, without reservations
burdened with child and child and child.
Longing for a place—just a space—to be
. . . to become.
Having so little, yet entrusted with so much,
like Mary, they carry the weight of the world.
And the hope.
They wait. They listen.
To the angel voice that first pulled them here
to the side streets of Bethlehem,
to the presence that now pulls them on toward home.
These Marys don’t know that their lives are a poem,
an acting out of the Christmas story,
and I don’t suppose it would matter much to them anyhow.
But daily they teach me
of the unexpected arrivals of grace
the mysterious disguises of God
the surprise of the coming.
I wrote this story-poem when I lived at Providence House, a collective of homes for women and children who are navigating major transitions. As I ponder again the words of the angel, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God,” I am reminded of the courage it takes to listen and say ‘yes’ to one’s own journey, to believe we are one of God’s favorites among favorites, especially when we have been sorely wounded by things like homelessness, imprisonment, shame, broken trust. Here we are – each of us a poem of the incarnation, if we will just let God have God’s impossible/possible way.
May it be so for all of us this year. May it yield blessing for our world. – Love, Kayla
By: Kayla McClurg
Authors’ Note: This was originally posted January 17, 2013. But since I am struggling, the Winter Solstice is a few days off and we are deep into the depth of Advent, I thought I would revise, update, and re-post it.
“Looking for God in prayer is like looking for a path in a field of untrodden snow. Walk across the snow and there is your path.”
I love this quote by Thomas Merton, a truthful man if ever there was one. Although a monk in one of the strictest religious Orders in the Catholic Church, he lived his life in gentle yet transparent honesty. Merton was known mostly for his deep writings on faith and social justice, but he was above all a man of prayer. You would assume as a monk, he would be a ‘professional prayer’ understanding it better than most.
And yet he penned the above quote.
I venture to reason that this quote was written by Merton for himself and not us. He ‘walked across the snow’ faithfully, seeking God in all ways and in all things.
I’m pondering this quote and sharing it because of my own life of prayer these days. I pray all the time, I mean every hour because of stress, extreme economic hardship and impending homelessness. So, I say that not to brag but more as a confession since I have no one and nowhere else to turn most days except to God in prayer. Another reason I pray often is because otherwise I’m a sloppy example of flesh and blood, prone more towards my addictions than my healing.
Prayer is not just a time of asking God for things, but rather it is a pathway to deeper intimacy with God, with myself, and with the world I have been called to serve in love. Without prayer I am like fruit that has fallen from a tree while still believing it is growing and connected to its Source. Without prayer, I am pure illusion.
There is a “lostness” to these days, as the light of day gives way more quickly to the shuddering embrace of darkness, my prayer life is following the ‘natural rhythm’ of winter. When I say ‘lost’ I do not mean in my entire life, but in the sense that this part of the journey is “rubber meets the road” time, a time when the giddiness of the pink cloud has dissipated and life is real and I must show up. But I am reminded that just showing up is indeed half the battle.
So I show up. I set aside time to be intentionally with God, to listen to the still, small Voice above the din and noise within my head and heart. I show up knowing, regardless of what I am feeling, God is there as a Present Reality. I also learn that God is greater than the feelings and emotions within me, the ones that far too often condemn me. Much like a well known prayer of Thomas Merton, I do not know the path I am called to take in certainty, yet I feel the tug of the Spirit leading me down paths I sometimes fear to travel. At times, I sense I am traveling alone. But I have learned that the Divine Presence is a truthful promise not an erratic emotion. And I have above all tasted God’s love as deeply in the Divine Absence as I have in Divine Presence.
I sense I am being led to an edge, a place of discomfort, but I am a believer in the truth that life truly begins where my comfort zones end. But I am human, and fear and confusion still persist, even with many hours spent in prayer for trust and clarity. What is so stark about the confusion I feel now is that for the first time in years, the confusion is not from choices made in the throes of active addiction but in the clarity of sobriety making this even more poignant and painful.
Regardless, the truth is I must choose which way to go, how to find housing and work all while staying sober. But I am not alone (even though the feelings say otherwise), I must make choices in faith: faith in God; faith in knowing that if I ask for Wisdom, it is promised; faith in knowing I must walk across the snow in order to see the path God is laying out for me; faith in knowing that I am traveling with One who will never leave or forsake me.
In making these choices I am seeking obedience to God and God’s will – a will that is more tender than stern, more compassionate that perfectionist, more about trust than certainty. The word for obedience in Latin is “obidere” meaning “to listen.” I love that definition because it ties into my coming before God in prayer to deepen our intimacy and to know what is being asked of me. In order to grow and know I must be still and listen to the Voice of Love.
So on this chilly afternoon, less than a week before the culmination of a hopeful Sacred Season, I am reminded again that the path I am seeking is indeed made along the Way. The path God is leading me on is not always so clearly laid, yet I am promised the faithfulness of God’s warming Presence in the chill of the unknown. I am reminded too that prayer is a loving communiqué filled with hope – the hope of meeting God in solitude and in the world. And my prayers, much like this hope, do not come in strength or unfailing assurance but rather in fragility, vulnerability, and weakness.
However, God’s love comes in the chilled, biting wind chaffing my cheeks as I stare out into the gorgeous yet empty openness. And as this chill numbs my fingers, I am reminded once again that the path may not be certain, but God’s tender love and presence is.
O Lord, you who raise the lowly and humble the arrogant, have mercy on those of us who are disheartened and broken.
Holy One, raise us who have fallen, show yourself to those who call upon you daily, and heal those who are sick and wounded.
Gentle Shepherd, feed the hungry, free all who are held captive by prisons seen and unseen, strengthen the weak, encourage those who lose heart. Let us be like Mary and let Jesus once again be born within us and remind us, O Lord, that all nations shall know that You alone are God.”
This is a repost of an original Internet Monk article. Published by iMonk, December 2007
I have several friends who are doing Advent in their Baptist churches for the first time, and they have lots of questions about candles and logistics. I wish there were more questions about Advent itself.
For example, the mood of Advent is dark and serious. It’s not the mood of Lent, which is a particular kind of seriousness as the shadow of the cross extends over our path. It’s the mood of darkness that comes because the world is in darkness.
We need a savior.
This is the time that we stop and see that the powers of evil are entrenched in the world. Evil authorities and evil persons are having their way. A good creation is being ruined. Hearts made for love and light are imprisoned, crying out and empty.
There is war, terror, the loss of innocence and the curses of ignorance, poverty and death. The wise men of this age are propagating nonsense. Men and women made in God’s image are addicted to the worst the darkness has to offer. They think backwards and cannot find their way out of the dungeon. They have lost their will to live and love, and have settled for the cheapest and palest of imitations.
Advent’s darkness includes the failure of religion to bring any light to this fallen and dying world. Religion has become as empty as fool’s errand as can be imagined. The religious take themselves seriously, but the world hears the hollowness of it all.
In the Christian family itself, the prosperity gospel makes a mockery of the very savior it claims to proclaim. Western Christians plunge into the pagan celebration, spending thousands on themselves and their children. We spend enough on our lights to save thousands upon thousands of lives. But those lives are in the darkness of Advent’s waiting. Our “lights” are nothing more than an extension of that darkness. They have nothing to do with the true light that comes to the world.
The real center of Advent’s dark mood is that we need a savior. We who sing and go to church for musicals and eat too much and buy too much and justify the season by our strange measurements of suffering.
We light candles and wait because, after looking around and taking stock, there should be no doubt that we need a savior.
Ironically, after 2,000 years of offering our Savior to others, we- Christians- need one more than ever. When we mark ourselves has “having” Christ more than “needing” Christ, we miss the Spirit of the Advent season.
Despite the fact that the world needs a savior, those offering him and his story to the world look no more “saved” than anyone else. In fact, with an extra facade of religion or two, we seem to be in every bit as bad a shape as the world we call “lost.”
The mood of Advent is that we are all lost. Advent isn’t about the “saved” telling the “lost” to “get saved.” Advent is a light that dawns in all of our darknesses. Advent is bread for all of our hungers. Advent is the promise kept for all of us promise-breakers, betrayers and failures.
Can we find a way to celebrate Advent as those who NEED to be saved? As those who NEED a savior? Not as those who know for certain that someone else does?
Scripture says that we who had not received mercy have now received mercy. Those who were nobodies are now the people of God.
The key to Advent is not living as if we are the people of God and always have been. The key is to live as if we need a Savior, and he has come to us, found us, saved us and is there for everyone in the world.
The mood of Advent isn’t “come be religious like us.” It is “We are all waiting for our Savior to be born. Let us wait together. And when he comes, let us recognize him, together.”
When the day dawns, let us all receive him. We go to the manger and worship. We give to him our gifts. We take his light to the poor.
Until then, we are the poor, the weak, the blind, the lonely, the guilty and the desperate. We light candles because we who are in darkness are in need of a great light. We need a savior.
So we wait amidst the ruins, we protect the lights we hold in hope. We sing to one who is coming. We look and wonder. We pray for his star to take us, once again, to the miracle.
Originally posted December 2007. Original Link: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/53257
Blessed are the fearless, for they shall know God.
I cannot remember where I first heard this said or got an inkling of it (I won’t take credit for it since ALL Wisdom is plagiarism, only Stupid is original). But I’ve been ‘stuck’ on this fearless thing precisely because fear has been gripping my life, poisoning my faith and eating away at the foundation of my friendship with God these last few weeks. Let’s face it: fear sucks. Fear is a drug, literally, that alters brain chemistry and much like anger makes humans dumber, fear makes me weaker, blinder, and less likely to trust a God Who is absolutely trustworthy. Plain and simple, fear kills my faith.
As I have learned from A.A., I cannot think my way into a new way of living, but rather I must live my way into a new way of thinking, so I am writing my way to fearlessness (because I pine to know God as deeply as possible). I am going to be fearless in my hunger and pursuit of God since God is the Hound of Heaven pursuing us as dogs pursues the fox at a hunt.
I am compelled to remember that God is Love and perfectly so; and Perfect Love cast out all fear. No shame or judgment here, for when I slide into fear, I ‘should’ all over myself – I should be doing this, I should think like this, etc. So I remind myself that in my journey with God, all ground is sacred ground when pursuing God and the good.
So be fearless and reckless in pursuing God. Bang on the door. Ask the questions. Seek the Face that is so lovely. For Jesus said “ask…seek…knock” and I say do it recklessly, fearlessly, no matter what, no matter how, never stop, never be satisfied for God is greater than even our desires. And don’t let anyone tell you that you are outside of God’s love, grace or mercy.
In our fearless pursuit, remember the Four R’s that God is all about: resurrection; redemption; renewal; and restoration. And because these four things are in operation, God’s love is messy and lavish and, most important of all, always available to all who seek.
So, let’s be fearless, for we shall know God.
God makes broken things beautiful; I know this to be true. And God does so with love, grace and mercy – the trifecta of God’s Being.
God is the God of Chances, not just second ones, but (as my life is evidence of) third, fourth and fifth chances. God allows us to start our days, and even our lives, over with a simple prayer because with God every day is a New Day. There was a song I used to sing in youth group back in the 1980s, and to this day I still hum and sing it when I am alone in the car or alone with God and Juno in the mountains:
The steadfast Love of the Lord never ceases. Your mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning, great is Your faithful love, O Lord, great is Your faithful Love.
If there is one thing I would want all of us to learn, know and experience this day, it would be the Truth of that hymn. God’s love never ceases. God’s mercies never come to an end. Every morning, every moment we need it, God’s faithful and unconditional love is there, ready and waiting to fill us.
God makes broken things beautiful with love, grace and mercy.
As a person in recovery, I am well acquainted with having to ‘start my day/life over’ at a moment’s notice. I am told in the Rooms that I have the power to start my day over as soon as I say “I am starting over.” I believe we say that because we alcoholics and addicts learn in sobriety that God’s love is a flowing river and all we need to do is wade in – the shallow parts for some, and the deeper parts for others. It all depends on how broken and wounded I am feeling as to what part of the River of Love I wade into.
So this day, I am reminded of how grateful I am because of God’s unconditional love, a Love not mitigated by church, media, emotions, sins or addictions. This love is unrelenting, pursuing us (the object of God’s affections) at all cost and at all times.
So, if you need it today, just repeat this mantra out loud: “God makes broken things beautiful…like YOU!”