By Richard Rohr
Reprinted from Richard's Daily Meditations
In Jesus, God achieved the perfect synthesis of the divine and the human. The incarnation of Jesus demonstrates that God meets us where we are as humans. God freely and fully overcomes the gap from God’s side. The problem of redemption is already resolved once and for all, long before its dramatic illustration on the cross. Bethlehem already revealed that it was good to be a human being. Yes, you can both thank and blame St. Francis for both the popularizing and sentimentalizing of Christmas. Easter was the big feast before his time.
For the Christian, spiritual power is always hidden inside of powerlessness, just as God was hidden and yet revealed in a defenseless baby. If God is ever to be loved and shared, God had to risk both human embodiment and human vulnerability. This is the only thing that enchants and evokes the human heart. We do not properly fall in love with concepts or theological ideas (although some do try)—persons fall in love with other persons.
In a weak little child, God is both perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed—and fully loveable. Tonight we celebrate this wonderful mystery.
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
- John 1:14
A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler - the Lord is determined to do all this.
Reflection by William C. Green
This poem by Richard Wilbur was written on Christmas Eve. It sums up Christ's life and inspired a song for Advent and Christmas. The song begins:
A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine.
How much Wilbur says in a few words about Jesus and the significance of his birth! Following gospel accounts, it's all earth-centered not immaterial and simply spiritual. A stable-lamp, stars, stones, straw, barn, stall. Those images convey how the astonishing presence of God becomes known in what's altogether mundane.
Maybe more than anything else what we need is a reawakening of awe, something that stops us in our tracks, interrupts our usual thoughts, and inspires us to look again at what's right before us. We don't need to be looking at the Grand Canyon or listening to Handel's Messiah‚Äîthough that's wonderful, too. We can look again at what is easily overlooked, maybe taken for granted because we're used to it and it no longer strikes us as marvelous. Maybe this is a feature of family life, or friends, maybe it's seeing that a neglected room in your house could become something you really enjoy, maybe it's noticing something at church you expect without appreciating, maybe it's acting as though every little thing you do matters. Maybe it's acting as though Jesus actually is our ruler and seeing what difference God is determined to make.
In the coming of Jesus may we find your royal power, God, in the stones and stars of life right now. Amen.
Kingdom people are history makers. They break through the small kingdoms of this world to an alternative and much larger world, God’s full creation. People who are still living in the false self are history stoppers. They use God and religion to protect their own status and the status quo of the world that sustains them. They are often fearful people, the nice proper folks of every age who think like everybody else thinks and have no power to break through, or as Jesus’ opening words put it, “to change” (Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17).
Why do we love and admire kingdom people like Mary and Joseph, and then not imitate their faith journeys, their courage, their non-reassurance by the religious system? These were two laypeople who totally trusted their inner experience of God and who followed it to Bethlehem and beyond. Mary and Joseph walked in courage and blind faith that their own experience was true—with no one to reassure them they were right. Their only safety net was God’s love and mercy, a safety net they must have tried out many times, or else they would never have been able to fall into it so gracefully.
Come Emmanuel, God with us!
Taken from Richard's Daily Meditations. Adapted from "Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr," pp. 66-68.
"In my beginning is my end," asserts T. S. Eliot in Four Quartets. Much of what we believe about God and Christ is reflected therein: the God who made us will be the God who judges us; Christ is the Alpha and the Omega; the God who created the world out of nothing will at its consummation be "all in all."
So with ritual cycles. We begin them where we end. The Advent season begins the liturgical year and the lectionary year and the lectionary cycle with stories about the end time: "Stay awake!" "Live in expectation!" "Watch for the signs of the reign of God!" But in our end is our beginning: the signs of God's reign point us to the birth of something new.
The color for Advent is deep blue. For some, the blue reflects the color of late autumn's night, a sky lit by moon and stars. The days are short. The long nights mark the end of the year's growing season. But the long nights are fertile ground for dreaming - imagine the desert blossoming and sheltering a mother and child; imagine peace prevailing; imagine God all in all, Joseph dreams in this season - of the child to be born soon, whom he is to name Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Advent: watch and wait; imagine and dream. The signs of the season are all around, pointing us to our beginning and our end. God with us!
This devotional, written by campus pastor Bob Yoder, is taken from Advent and Lenten Devotions by Goshen College students, faculty, and staff which can be accessed at this link: GC Devotions.
In its life-giving power and in its sometimes frightening clean sweep, the image of a flood fits well with this season, which at the same time calls us to repentance and invites us into new life. If we’re honest, we have to admit that we sometimes hang on to things that don’t matter or last, things that may even get in the way of what God wants to do in us, in our communities and in our world — things we may need to let go. Yet God’s work is not about wiping things out simply to wipe them out. Even painful and difficult clearing away is for the sake of something bigger and truer, and it is always grounded in God’s overwhelming mercy, in God’s care and concern for all that God has made.
The Scriptures for this Advent season include many water images. In the Bible, water usually means two opposite things: destruction and life. Desert-dwellers realized how crucial water was for survival. No doubt that the “righteous branch” announced by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33:15) won’t live long without regular watering. Yet while water is absolutely necessary for life, it can also be scary. The panic is there where “the roaring of the sea and the waves” causes people to “faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world” (Luke 21:25-26). We can imagine the scene; we’ve seen videos of floods and tsunamis carrying away everything in their wake — or we’ve lived through this kind of destruction ourselves.
Sometimes I struggle to keep my head above waters in the “flood of life.” I wish I could be merely wading in knee-deep stuff, but instead, it feels as if the only visible part of me is the brown hair on top of my head. Where is the snorkel?!?! Oxygen tank anyone?!? But then I hear a voice saying, “Bob, put your feet down and stand up. Take my yoke/lifesaver…”
PRAYER: O God, help me wade in your faithfulness to me. Allow me to consider how you both comfort and disturb so that I may be more faithful to you.