Thursday, December 26, 2013

December 26

The day after they marveled at the manger, the shepherds must have wondered what had changed. They returned to the quotidian details and demands of shepherding, for the sheep remained sheep. A child had been born, a child had been given to them, to the world. A glory usually perceived only occasionally and fleetingly, if at all, had blazed across the dark of their sky and irradiated sense, mind, and heart. Existence glowed as it had not since the first bang of genesis itself.

Then the day after. Sunrise and sunset, day and night again, much as before. For this day and for who knew how many days ahead? Meanwhile that small family left for a far country; and the child slowly grew through the years, not to be heard from again until another blaze across the landscape of their life, followed by cruel extinction of that light. What had changed?

They, touching and touched by God incarnate, had changed. Exposed outwardly to and infused inwardly with divine glory made quotidian companion, flesh and blood, they rose the day after, in the mystery of faith, to life both strangely the same and strangely, utterly new. In that mystery, in the time given them, they began to learn to tend their fields and days toward a second genesis, a renovation to come of unending light and life, abounding in glory. And so they must have continued to marvel.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Did High Glory Blaze a Little Space?

Did high glory blaze a little space that vast cold night? Did some poor souls, laboring late in roughing fields, thus gleam in face and heart, their world transformed, at such compacted splendor? And can that long-ago radiance, these many years hence, come down again to lift our deep gloom, to push back the looming shades? Ah dear Child, may it be so! May you, refulgent in blooded humility, bear anew to us, all sorts and conditions, your unconditioned light and love, however small may they seem this night, that we may rise to ruddy dawn and look with you on wondrous, happy day!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Some Thoughts on Revelation 1:1-8 in Advent

Beginnings and endings. Transitions. No matter what our situation in life, we daily, weekly, and yearly endure countless beginnings and endings, countless transitions. Some are minor; some are major. Some are sad or painful; some are joyous or hopeful. In all, nothing seems to last. For those of younger years, life appears to be characterized far more by beginnings than endings; for those of older years, life appears to be characterized far more by endings than beginnings. Yet for all, between our first beginning and our last ending, transition seems the very stuff of life, until we finally die.

Deep, deep, deep in the flesh and blood of our existence, of all our beginnings and endings, God – the One who is, who was, and who is to come – came to us in Jesus. He came to us in Jesus to endure and to redeem all that “is, was, and is to come” in our life – all our transitions, and most especially our first beginning and last ending. God is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Beginning without ending. He is the Ending without beginning. He rules over the world’s beginning and ending, over our beginning and ending. In God, all our beginnings and endings find ever-creating, ever-sustaining, and ever-redeeming goodness and love, without variation, without change, without transition. Where the transitions of life are decidedly mixed for us, where fragility and impermanence wear upon us, God is – good, loving, faithful, sovereign. In Jesus, God takes upon himself what we break down, and what breaks us down. In Jesus, God perfects what otherwise would ruin and defeat us.

John broadcast this good news in what we call the Book of Revelation. It is a strange, challenging, and unsettling document, filled with fantastical images, cataclysmic events, and dire warnings. Yet it is also a comforting document, for the thematic substrate throughout is this stupendous news of God’s good, faithful, and sovereign love for us in Jesus, both in and beyond this world.

May we – gladly receiving this good news – begin, journey, and end this Advent with God’s advent to us in Jesus. His humble birth is the true beginning of God’s ending of our story; and God’s end to our story spells the Alpha and Omega of his enduring love, which is our new beginning, world without end.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

With My Whole Heart I Cry?

"With my whole heart I cry;
answer me, O Lord.
I will keep your statutes."

(Psalm 119:45, New Revised Standard Version.)

Ah, but is not this "whole" the whole heart of the matter? I read this verse, for myself, not as a declaration but as a question. "With my whole heart I cry?" Do I approach the Lord, do I seek the Lord, with my whole heart? I cannot confess that I do. I stifle beats. I hide chambers. At least I try to stifle and hide. Whether successful or not before the God of the universe (including my own little sphere), I try. And thus I do not cry with my whole, with my core self. Before the one in whom I live, move, and have my being, I labor to think and act as if I could withhold and conceal cells and movements within my heart, within me. What nerve have I then, that I approach the Lord with the request that he answer me, with the proffer that I will live as I should live, if he will respond to me as I think he should?

Friday, December 13, 2013

We Await That Coming

Reading in Isaiah 40 this Advent ...

We plow; we pave; we produce. Yet we cannot straighten, cannot stop, the wilderness, the desert, in our lives and in our world. We await that coming.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Not Despite But In Our Suffering

Because God came to us fully, tenderly, and lovingly in the mystery of the incarnation -- in Jesus crucified, dead, and buried -- we can trust that God is fully, tenderly, and lovingly with us not despite our suffering but in our suffering.