Thursday, December 8, 2016

Advent 2016


"The Word Became Flesh"


"In the beginning was the Word.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him.  In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it...The Word became a human and lived among us.  We saw his glory - the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father - and he was full of grace and truth."  John 1:1-5, 14


            A baby, a newborn:  the Word in human flesh.  Forget Renaissance art and wooden crèches.  Can you imagine this child?  What did he look like?  How did he act?  Based on what we know about infant development today, you might imagine this scene.  The young child opens his eyes and moves his arms and legs.  He hears the voice of his mother, a voice he has known from the time before birth.  He hears Joseph's voice and probably recognizes it as well.  When his mother rocks him on her chest, he is content.  When he nurses, Mary sings to him, bending her face toward his.  He studies her intently.  He is learning her scent.  As with other infants, the Word-child eats, sleeps, and soils whatever passes for a diaper.  He breathes softly, his heart beat steady and quick. 

            This newborn, however, is also surrounded by miracles and, if we are honest, by mysteries most of us will never grasp, at least not in this life.  Emmanuel:  God with us, God among us, God clothed in flesh.  How do we wrap our minds around this Word who is and was and ever shall be?  We can begin by paying close attention to his circumstances and to those who encounter him in the opening days of his life here.  As you know, his first bed is a manger, and, yes, he comes to serve the poor and lowly.  He sleeps among the animals of the stable - donkeys and sheep, maybe a dog and a brown cow.  Fitting, some scholars say, that the Word, present in the beginning with God and the very conduit of Creation, should sleep among these creatures.  

            Shepherds come to see him.  Galvanized by the Word, they become instant missionaries, telling everyone the good news...scruffy guys from the bottom of the social order, transformed by a miracle in a manger.  Wise men come from afar, led by the light of a star.  Over mountains and across deserts they come, bringing gifts fit for a prince.  In the stable at Bethlehem, they bow down to the Light of the world and then go home by another way.  Some weeks on, Mary and Joseph take the baby to Jerusalem, to the Temple to be consecrated.  There Simeon and Anna, the pious elders, see the child and praise God.  The long wait is ended; the promised one has come!  

            No, we don't know how the infant Jesus looked, how much he weighed or whether he was born bald or with a crown of dark curls.  If a halo shimmered above his little head, no one thought to write it down and tell us.  We can't know his gaze or the sound of his cry.  But we can meet him on the Advent journey.  We can encounter love and grace all over again.  Barbara Brown Taylor writes about what she calls "the beholds" at the center of the Christmas message.  "Behold," say the angels to the shepherds, "I bring you good tidings of great joy."  "Behold the lamb of God," proclaims John the Baptist.  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," says Jesus.  Behold signals the extraordinary.  Behold is about awe, not logic and rationality.  Behold calls us to fall on our knees and give up despair and doubt.  Behold invites us to the manger of Bethlehem.  Behold is the very spirit of Advent.  Oh, come let us behold the Word!      


"And of his kingdom there will be no end."  Luke 1:33


-- Ashley Williams     



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