Saturday, December 27, 2008

The God Who Comes

Here is a quote from Carlo Carretto from the book The God Who Comes. Blessings to you for continued wonder during the days of Christmastide!

God presents himself to us little by little. The whole story of salvation is the story of God who comes.

It is always he who comes, even if he has not yet come in his fullness. But there is indeed one unique moment in his coming, the others were only preparations and announcement.

The hour of his coming is the Incarnation.

The Incarnation brings the world his presence. It is a presence so complete that it overshadows every presence before it.

God is made human in Christ. God makes himself present to us with such a special presence, such an obvious presence, as to overwhrow all the complicated calculations made about him in the past.

"The invisible, intangible God has made himself visible and tangible in Christ."

If Jesus is truly God, everything is clear; if I cannot believe this, everything darkens again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve Prayer

I found this wonderful prayer I would like to pray, oh Lord. As we approach Christmas Eve, may Margaret's soul lead ours to the manger.

Into the bleakest winters of our souls, Lord, you are tiptoeing on tiny Infant feet to find us and hold our hands. May we drop whatever it is we are so busy about these days to accept this gesture so small that it may get overlooked in our frantic search for something massive and over­whelming. Remind us that it is not you who demands large, lavish celebrations and enormous strobe-lit displays of faith. Rather, you ask only that we have the faith of a mustard seed and the willingness to let a small hand take ours. We are ready. Amen.

Margaret Anne Huffman

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What's In a Name?

This is my LifePoints column which appeared in the religion section of the Huntsville Times on Friday, December 19, 2008.

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us'." - Matthew 1:23

In the English language, we have some strange names for things. I have often wondered why we call certain appliances "hot water heaters." Don’t they heat cold water, not hot? More disturbingly, at airports we park planes at a "terminal", and pilots announce each landing as a "final approach." I try very hard not to think about what that could mean.

Yes, names can be quite revealing. As Christmas approaches, I have been pondering the two names given for Jesus before he was born. While Christmas reminds us of his many grand titles (like Messiah, Counselor, Mighty God, and Prince of Peace), there are only two actual names assigned to this little baby. The angel tells Joseph to name the child “Jesus,” and Matthew comments that in doing so, the scripture is fulfilled which names him “Emmanuel.”

As a father myself, I’ve noticed how conspicuously quiet the scriptures are about Joseph. It seems everybody else has a song to sing on that first Christmas, from Mary to Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Simeon. But Joseph? He’s apparently not much of a singer. He gets no credit for performance, poetry, or prophesy, and we can only guess at his fatherly feelings. Yet what little the scriptures say about Joseph concerns naming the baby. He definitely gets that job, and he gets two names to work with. Why two? What could they mean?

The name Jesus means "Savior." I imagine this comes as no surprise to persons of faith, who believe Christ came to free us from sin. But the name Emmanuel means "God with us." Maybe that’s the name that truly encapsulates the brilliance of Christmas. God is not beyond us, or above us, but with us. That simple name broadcasts a bold belief that because of Christmas, something has fundamentally changed in the way salvation works.

God has crossed over the great divide. The divine has become human, grace infused into the grind. God didn’t just write a memo, make a call, or send his errand boy. He showed up in the flesh. God came to co-mingle with us, pitch a tent down the street, and become one of us. This is the spirituality of the incarnation. And the incarnation might be what is most radical about the Christian faith.

Our God is not content with being as far away as the stars. God is the God who comes. The incarnation changes everything, because in the midst of the mess of our lives, God is with us. The God who escapes our grasp mysteriously shows up when we least expect it. God appears in the eyes of a child, in the warmth of a home, in the poverty of a struggling family, and in the longing for peace.

Have you noticed the way people talk about this year’s season in light of the economic downturn? A few weeks ago, I heard someone say “it’s going to be a dismal Christmas.” Dismal? Do economics really have the power to hijack our holy days? The birth of Emmanuel means God is with us, no matter what. In a world of wars, hate crimes, and economic slowdowns, we live in the stubborn hope that Christmas can still change everything.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christ Lives in You

The power of the incarnation is that God comes! God is with us! Christmas is not just about God "sending" us a Savior and about having a birthday party on his behalf. Our definitive Christian spirituality is so much more. In a miraculous historical moment, the divine has become human and this changes everything. Christ lives in us. This video entitled "Stethoscope" is a funny little reminder of the incarnational spirituality that is unique to Christianity.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent Prayer

by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Advent Conspiracy

Sandy and I are making the intentional effort of spending a bit less this Christmas. Honestly, I think we are going to enjoy it a lot more. I saw this video that has gotten me really thinking about how much we have let consumerism overtake the holy days of the holidays.

If you are interested in finding out more about this movement, check out The Advent Conspiracy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Passionate Advent Spirituality

Passionate Advent spirituality is all about longing with a stubborn and persistent hope. There is nothing bland or boring about it. God has done something in this world through the birth of Christ ... and God is not finished doing it. The miracle of the incarnation changed everything. The coming of Emmanuel means God is with us. That keeps changing everything as we continue to live into the miracle.

Carlo Carretto writes, in The God Who Comes:

"The best metaphor for our world of today is astronauts speeding through the cosmos, but with their life-supporting capsule pierced by a meteorite fragment. But the Church resembles Mary and Joseph traveling from Egypt to Nazareth on a donkey, holding in their arms the weakness and poverty of the Child Jesus: God incarnate."

When we hold in our arms what is profoundly alternative, it brings healing and wholeness in our world of brokenness, anxiety, and pain. All in God's time. God is doing something with us, one layer of grace at a time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent Devotional Websites

I just found a wonderful daily online Advent devotional guide that might be helpful for your spirit as you connect with God's Spirit during this Advent season. I find it to be a beautiful, peaceful way to pause during the workday for a few minutes and remember the joys of passionate longing in Advent spirituality. You may find it at Following the Star .

There is also another, simpler Advent calendar with a quote for the day if you prefer that. It's at Explore Faith's Advent Calendar .

Blessings for a holy Advent season!