An Advent Paradox: Power Abandoned to Powerlessness

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Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath,
when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second,
and the Word, who had called it all into being,
went with all his love into the womb of a young girl,
and the universe started to breathe again,and the ancient harmonies resumed their song,
and the angels clapped their hands for joy?

Power. Greater power than we can imagine,
abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child,
still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid,
unseeing, unhearing, unknowing.
Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose,
slowly swimming into life until the ocean in the womb is no longer large enough,
and it is time for birth.

Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity,
Christ, the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes,
willingly and lovingly leaving all that power
and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years
to show us what we ought to be and could be.
Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine,
to show us what it means to be made in God’s image.
~Madeline L’Engle from Bright Evening Star

 

 

 

It’s the season of grace coming out of the void
Where a man is saved by a voice in the distance
It’s the season of possible miracle cures
Where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown
Where time begins to fade
And age is welcome home

It’s the season of eyes meeting over the noise
And holding fast with sharp realization
It’s the season of cold making warmth a divine intervention
You are safe here you know now

Don’t forget
Don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

It’s the season of scars and of wounds in the heart
Of feeling the full weight of our burdens
It’s the season of bowing our heads in the wind
And knowing we are not alone in fear
Not alone in the dark

Don’t forget
Don’t forget I love
I love
I love you
~Vienna Teng “The Atheist Christmas Carol”

 

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There is no longer a void or darkness upon the face of the deep.  The stars need no longer to hold their breath.

There is unfathomed power in the powerlessness of this gift to us.

Grace has come in the face of Jesus the Son, through God the Father who moves among us, His Spirit changing everything, now and always.

Do not be afraid.
You are not alone in the dark
though wounded, though scarred.
You are loved, never forgotten.
Don’t forget.

 

 

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Tears Need No Translation

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The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.
But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now
mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.
— J. R. R. Tolkien

We forget that God is right there, waiting for us to turn to him, no matter how dire our situation.  We forget the reassuring words of his messengers: “Fear not.”   God always seeks to draw close to us — even in the depths of hell.

…it comes down to this: the only way to truly overcome our fear of death is to live life in such a way that its meaning cannot be taken away by death.  It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others.  It means choosing generosity over greed.  It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power.  Finally, it means being ready to die again and again — to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda.
~Johann Christoph Arnold

We watch once again as unspeakable terror strikes down people so much like ourselves — those who are living ordinary lives, doing routine things.  Tears never need translation, no matter what foreign or local neighborhood soil is soaked with the blood of innocents.

Evil exists, visits our world daily and yesterday settled like a shroud over Paris.   As we learned after the airplanes-as-weapons tragedies of 9/11, massive expense, military action and legislation can barely keep evil-doers at bay and tend to even encourage them.   No place on this earth can ever be truly secure through the efforts of mere man.  After all, we too are fallen, and those who do evil can look so much like ourselves.

So we must fall back on what we were told long ago and each and every day in 365 different verses in the Word itself: fear not.
Do not be overwhelmed with evil but overcome evil with good.

The goal of this life is to live for others, to live in such a way that death cannot erase the meaning and significance of a life.  We are called to give up our selfish agendas in order to consider the needs of the other guy and the greater good.  Cherish life, all lives, including, as is crystal clear from Christ’s example,  those who hate and want to murder us.

Our only defense against evil is God’s offense; only He will lead us to Tolkien’s “where everything sad will come untrue”, where tears are no longer translated as sorrow,  but can only be understood as tears of joy.

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Let my prayer arise~
Lord I have cried to Thee,
hearken unto Thee.
Incline not my heart
to evil words.

Advent Cries: Overcoming Fear

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

We forget that God is right there, waiting for us to turn to him, no matter how dire our situation.  We forget the reassuring words of his messengers: “Fear not.”
God always seeks to draw close to us — even in the depths of hell.

…it comes down to this: the only way to truly overcome our fear of death is to live life in such a way that its meaning cannot be taken away by death.  It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others.  It means choosing generosity over greed.  It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power.  Finally, it means being ready to die again and again — to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda.
~Johann Christoph Arnold

There is a cacophony of debates about where to place the blame for the current epidemic of senseless mass shootings of innocent people; these arguments are flying around kitchen tables, in barber shops, through countless comments on online blogs and news reports.  We want to place the blame somewhere: the easy access to the weapons used, the lack of access to mental illness treatment, the overparenting, the lack of parenting, the violence of video games and movies, the lack of foundational spiritual faith, the overabundance of fundamentalist spiritual faith.

None of it meets the real problem head on:  evil exists no matter what the weapon used or the mental illness left untreated.   As we learned after the airplanes-as-weapons tragedies of 911, massive expense and legislation barely keeps evil at bay, simply moving its practitioners on to some other means.   No place on this earthly soil is truly secure and no amount of money nor new laws will create that place, as hard as we might want to believe that can happen.

So we must fall back on what we were told long ago: fear not.
Do not be overwhelmed with evil but overcome evil with good.  We have seen it yet again in the case of the heroes in this most recent tragedy: teachers and staff who made themselves the targets, placing themselves in front of those children who depended on them.

The goal of this life is to live for others, to be ready to die, living in a way such that death cannot erase the meaning and significance of a life.
Give up our selfish agendas in order to consider the needs of the greater good.
Cherish life, all lives,  especially those of our precious children — including the unborn — the unwanted, inconvenient, wrong-gendered or genetically impaired.
And we must cherish,  rather than intentionally hastening,  the final months, weeks, days and hours of our completely dependent and disabled terminally ill and elderly.  If we do not protect the lives of the weakest among us, we are turning them over (and we will soon follow) to the darkness.

Our only defense against evil is God’s offense; only He will lead us to the light where everything sad will come untrue.
Only then will there be no more fear — not ever — ever again.

Lenten Meditation: Sore Afraid

photo by Josh Scholten http://www.cascadecompass.com

And the glory of the Lord shone round about them
and they were sore afraid.  Luke 2:9

Aching in fear.  Viscerally overwhelmed and stricken. Terrified.

There is nothing subtle about glory.  No mere curiosity, no “hey take a look at that!”

It surrounds, consumes and transforms.   It shakes to the core.

Nothing can be the same again.  We will not be the same again.

And the first thing we hear:  Do not fear.

This is as it should be.

So fear not.  It is fear that hurts the most.

An Advent Tapestry–Fear Not

 

Adoration of the Shepherds by Charles Lebrun, 1689

Click on this painting for the link to a larger version–it is well worth it!

“How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”  George MacDonald

Fear often becomes the thing we fear the most. And it need not be. Being afraid in the face of the unexpected happened years and years ago to people who were society’s cast-offs, relegated to tending flocks as they had no other skill of value. They were the forgotten and the least of men. Yet what they saw and heard that Christmas night put them, of all people, first in line to see God in flesh,  allowing them access no one else had.

Within the routine familiarity of their fields and flocks came this most unexpected experience, terrifying in its sheer “other worldliness”, and blinding in its grandeur. They were flattened with fear and dread, “sore” afraid, hurting all over in their terror.

And so the reassurance came: “Be not afraid”.  It is reiterated over and over:  “Fear not!”

The shepherds picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and obediently went on their way to the safety and familiar security of a barn, to see with their own eyes what they could not imagine: a baby born in so primitive a place, yet celebrated from the heavens. The least becomes first, and the first becomes the least.

Sometimes, in these dark times, our terror is for good reason, and we feel driven upon the rocks of life.  But we need to understand where we truly land in those terrifying moments.  It is the safe haven of God’s arms,  as He gazes up at us from a manger bed, walks with us through the valley of our fear, and gathers us in to safe haven when we were sure there was nowhere else to go.

 

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click on painting for link to larger version