This week my hubby and I started one of my favorite times of the year, the wonderful season of Advent!
This is our now fourth Christmas together (is that even possible?) and each year we have celebrated this beautiful and centering tradition in the lead up to the twenty-fifth. I have found that these last four Christmas’ have been the richest, most Christ-filled ones yet, due in large part to celebrating Advent.
We’ve read a few great books over the years, but this year we tried a different one that we have been so blessed by. It’s called God with Us, and it’s a short daily devotional during the four weeks of Advent that is already touching our hearts and eliciting really meaningful family conversation. Yes, family being just the two of us…Bailey usually doesn’t have much to contribute 🙂
There have been so many things this last week that we’ve pondered for the first time, or maybe just a glimpse at something familiar but in a different light. I wanted to share some thoughts from our reading tonight, and I figured the best way to do that was just to share those actual words.
Richard John Neuhaus shares thoughts from passages in Isaiah 30 and Matthew 9 and 10, and how the point of Christmas has always been and will always be about Emmanuel, God with us. He says it like this…
“Recall Anselm of Canterbury on how God is beyond our powers to conceive. Anselm’s accent is on the transcendence of God. Christmas is about Emmanuel, God with us. The accent is on the immanence of God. We cannot understand the miracle of the immanence unless we understand the glory of the transcendence. And the other way around.
‘In the poorest of the poor we see Jesus in distressed disguise.’ So said Mother Teresa as she and her nuns ministered to the abandoned babies and dying aged whom they gathered in from the streets of Calcutta. Disguise is central to God’s way of dealing with us human beings. Not because God is playing games with us but because the God who is beyond our knowing makes himself known in the disguise of what we can know.
The Christian word for this is revelation, and the ultimate revelation came by incarnation.
Who would have thought that the baby nursing at Mary’s breast is, in truth, the Creator of heaven and earth? Who would have thought that the baby, now a young man, stretched in tortured death upon the cross is, in truth, the King of kings and Lord of lords? Yet some then, and millions upon millions since then, have thought exactly that. God is a master of disguises, in order that we might see.
God who is the fullness of Being infiltrated our world of beings in order that we might fully be.
Christmas is about incarnation, and incarnation is God’s becoming what he is not, in order that we might become what he is. Thus does God reveal himself.”
At the end there, he’s talking about the whole transcendence/immanence of God that he mentions at the beginning. He then goes on to talk about how those who say they love and worship Christ but have no use for the church really don’t have that option at all. “The church is the body of which Christ is the head. Head and body cannot be separated.” He says that Christ is with us and he speaks to us, in and through his church…”which means in and through the people who are his church.”
And then this…
“Sometimes it is hard to recognize Christ in the people who are his church, as it is hard to recognize Christ in the poorest of the poor. In both cases, he appears ‘in distressed disguise.’ That is the way of incarnation that began at Christmas, the way of the transcendent revealed in the immanent, the way of love that stoops so low to lift so high. ”
Did you catch that?
Love that stoops so low to lift so high. It’s what Christ did from the Cradle to the Cross. Love stooping so very low to lift the lowly so very high. How high?
As high as a Child of God.
Isn’t that absolutely remarkable?
And what then is our response? It’s to respond in utter gratitude to the magnitude of the love that stooped down to us, by stooping down and lifting others up so high. It’s to see, like Mother Teresa, Christ in the poorest of the poor.
In this season that can so quickly loose or attempt to fabricate the magic and wonderment of Christ come down, how are you preparing your heart to receive this blessed Child? How are you pondering in the quietness of your heart and in the loudness of your life the magnitude of Love stooped down to lift so high?
That lifted you high so that you could lift others high.
This Christmas and season of Advent, my prayer is that our hearts and lives would receive afresh or for the very first time the miraculous gift of Emmanuel, God with us.