Advent Musings on the Incarnation

Originally written and posted December 24, 2014

“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 (taken from the 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, so much so 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.

God, it seems, had different plans.

Instead, God chose to come to us as a naked, helpless baby born to a poor, unwed disenfranchised 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 on how God came to us then, and how God continues to come to us now: 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 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.

 

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Sacred Desires

I am starting to truly believe that the secret of life is written on (and in) our heart’s desires. These desires – the ones that are all-consuming, have a life of their own, connect you with the pain and joy of the world and with God – are sacred.

The time has come to return and re-ignite the inward journey that leads us to these divine desires. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we can pick up the trail right here and right now. God is timeless and therefore God is ever-present in every moment and in this moment we can dive deeply into our hearts and find God and those burning desires that are divine.

Our desires are the map that we have been given to find the only life worth living!

Don’t just ask yourself what the world needs. It is vital (life-giving) that we also ask ourselves what makes us come alive, and go do that! Because what the world needs now are people who have come alive and are awake.  There are enough ‘sleeping giants’ and deer in the headlights kind of people.  We need people burning with Life, fire, passion and love – seeking to fulfil the desires planted in their hearts.

In some ways, I believe that God has in fact “rigged” the world so that life only “works” when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives, when we live by faith.

All our attempts to find a safer life, to live by the expectations of others, just kill the soul in the end. That’s not how we find Life. And if there is any wisdom in these words, in the 47 years of living I have under my belt, I would say this: don’t ask yourself how or why you would follow your heart’s desire; for that question will cut your dreams off at the knees.

The “how” is never the right question to ask. And the “why” questions just leads to chasing an elusive dream, like a hamster on a spinning wheel going nowhere fast.

The most powerful question to ask is “WHAT”…

What would you dream for yourself? What does your heart truly long for? What do you feel God is calling you to be and do? What makes your Soul sing?

I believe the deep desires of our hearts’ were placed there by God – to lead us deeper into him and deeper into ourselves and this beautiful world.

In my estimation, I feel our “job” is to ask what we would do and as for the question of HOW, well that’s God’s job.

Seize Life…Now

It is no secret that I am a verdant seeker and searcher of all that is mystical and practical, addicted to more of God and all that is Sacred. I am not easily quieted or quenched by safe answers. As a teenager, I would walk around my church youth group with a homemade t-shirt that said, “you know the Answer, but do you even know the Questions?”

As is often the case with me and God – the hand held Mystery, the Unsayable Said – Wisdom comes through fragments of papers, random Google searches, strange emails, etc., questing for deeper and richer experiences of all that is Holy and profane.

And today this Message came to me, from The Message (a modern day translation of the Bible) written by one of my favorite people, Eugene Peterson. This comes from his translation of Ecclesiastes, one of the least appreciated books of the bible precisely because it is not pretty, packaged or pedantic with gentle answers.

So, read it with me with rage, passion, love, pounding fists, and sweating palms. Read it as prayer, as mantra, as fodder for your Greater Life and the larger angels that inhabit your heart!

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A right time to lament and another to cheer.

A right time to hold and another to part.

A time to search and another to count your losses.

One handful of peaceful repose is better than two fistfuls of worried work-

More spitting into the wind.

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

God’s in charge, not you – the less you speak, the better.

Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work.  It’s God’s gift!

God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

But against all illusion + fantasy + empty talk

Seize life!

God takes pleasure in your pleasure!

Each day is God’s gift… Make the most of each one!  Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!

Be generous! Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others.

Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.

Life as we know it, precious + beautiful, ends. The body is put back in the same ground it came from. 

The Spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.

It’s all smoke, nothing but smoke.

The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy.

There’s no end to the publishing of books…

The last + final word is this: [Be in awe of] God. Do what He tells you.

Source: The Message (MSG)© Eugene Peterson

“How Things Are” (Sandy Eisenberg Sasso)

Religion tells us what to do with the realities we face. God gives us the strength to change those things that can and must be changed. And God helps us to confront those things that happen unfairly, for no good reason.God helps us deal with what is beyond our control, what can’t be changed.

I used to think that we are where we are for a preordained reason. But I no longer believe that is true. We are where we are, and it is up to us whether there is a purpose in it or not. Places, circumstances, and encounters aren’t inherently meaningful; we make them meaningful, we give them purpose.


Source:

“Why Feeling Sorry for Yourself is Ruining Your Life” (Donald Miller)

I’ve a friend who can’t hold a job. He’s actually had some great jobs, but he can’t keep them. And for each job he’s lost, he’s a story about how bad his boss was, how much they overworked him, how silly their systems were or some similar excuse.

Over time I’ve realized my friend suffers from a victim mentality. I noticed it because I used to have it myself. But in the last few years I’ve realized a victim mentality costs me success, relationships and inner peace.

A victim mentality means we consistently look for reasons life isn’t working out the way we want.

But here’s the reality…Very few things in life work out exactly as we’ve planned. But if we don’t play the victim, very often things turn out great and often they turn out even better than we could have dreamed.

Why do people play the victim? Because playing the victim means they don’t have to try, it means they don’t have to take responsibility, and often it means people will feel sorry for them and give them attention.

But make no mistake, it’s a spiritual cancer that in the long run may cost you everything.

Tim Schurrer, who runs Storyline plays golf every so often with Olympic skater Scott Hamilton. Recently while they were golfing, Tim noticed something. When Scott hit a poor shot, he only gave himself five seconds to be frustrated. He had such incredible control over his mind that he refused to dwell on his mistakes or misfortune. He’d likely learned this from all those years of training, where falling on the ice in competition means you have to recover physically and mentally at light speed. If you don’t you’ll never beat your competition.

What Scott does, as a knee-jerk reaction, is to make a quick list of why the bad thing that happened could actually be good. Missing a shot means he learns something about his swing. Missing a shot is humbling, so he isn’t tempted to get arrogant. Missing a shot means he gets to teach the people around him how to keep a disciplined mind. In seeing the world this way, Scott continues to get better and better. It’s the mentality of a champion.

If we feel sorry for ourselves, we’re enabling our own tendency to fail. Let’s not. Our teams are depending on our best work. Our families are depending on our best work. Don’t ever let self pity take you down.

This may be the greatest lesson I’ve learned in my professional career. And the better I get at it, the more potential I have. I’m convinced the same is true for you.

Hope it helps.

Sincerely,

Donald Miller, Founder, Storyline and StoryBrand

SOURCE: Storyline Blog

“Who You Are” (Martin Laird)

Your problem is, you don’t know who you are. Let me tell you who you are. You are a ray of God’s own light. You say you seek God, but a ray of light doesn’t seek the sun; it’s coming from the sun.

You are a branch on the vine of God. A branch doesn’t seek the vine; it’s already part of the vine.

A wave doesn’t look for the ocean; it’s already full of ocean.

Random Musings to Seed & Feed

Random: without definite aim, reason, or pattern.

There is no rhyme or reason, aim or pattern, just words falling from my fingertips birthed in prayers, prayers that you draw near to the God Who draws near to you and loves you no matter what church or state says.  Words are simple enough to be understood and teach and strong enough to make a heart break or make a heart blossom.

I am learning that Life begins at the point where my comfort zone ends.

God’s greatest gift is unconditional Love and God’s greatest promise is eternal Presence.

If I am unable to see God in the profane as much as I do in the profound, then I am missing half the story.

Worry is an activity of the mind, not the heart.  And it is the action of a mind which does not believe or understand its’ connection to God.

Remember this one every time you meet someone, especially someone you do not like or agree with: everyone has a past (everyone!); everyone has a story; and everyone is on a Journey.

God is present in all circumstances…all of them.  There is divine purpose behind everything, all things, and therefore Divine Presence in everything.  So as painful and hard as it is to grasp, all things and all circumstances stand with the will of God.  It is hard to grasp that when looking n the pain of loss, death, violation, poverty, abuse and violence.  But in truth, God has given us all the power, presence and perseverance we need to prevent and end these, but we have not employed these gifts to their higher purpose.  Remember, there are no victims and there are no villains and in the end of all time, everything will be swallowed up in Love and Mercy.

Prayer is my conversation with God, which leads to friendship with God, which in turn leads to communion with God which ends in my union with God.

Still random.

Still musing.

I agree with Mimi Dixon’s musings on Advent, and in my words I have four things that I surmise: God rarely operates within my (or any human) frame of reference; God does not operate under any or anyone’s timetables because God is infinite and eternal and time is a human construct that attempts to measure time and space, here and there.  But God operates in the place and space of ‘no time’ so therefore any and every time is the perfect time for all time with God is Now.

Whew…that one hurt my brain.

And the final two: the obvious one, God’s ways are not our ways; and, God is way more comfortable with chaos than we are, because we experience chaos as the subjects of it, and God experiences chaos as the Object of it.

So, to think that God is going to do anything within the neat confines of my neat little world and world view with its finite flesh and blood, limited capabilities, understanding and comprehension, and then do so within a scripted frame of reference using societal norms is simply preposterous, asinine and absurd.

Musings done for now.

P.S. Oh yeah, Grace is Absurd.  But that subject is for another blog.