To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10
Though this passage is one of the most recognizable in which St. Paul describes the “Gifts” of the Holy Spirit, it is not the only one. In Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 4:7-13, and Romans 12:3-8 the gifts are also described and, interestingly, the lists differ. In some areas of scriptural review this might cause controversy, but in this case the lists compliment each other and suggest even more!
In reality, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are endless, and Paul’s attempts to enumerate them simply exemplify those gifts that can easily be identified in the believer. St. Paul, rather than affirming a stagnant itemization of gifts, teaches that the point of the list is to encourage the believer in their devotion to God.
Over the years, the church has affirmed a list of gifts common to all four passages from scripture in order to give us a reference point from which to start our discernment process. This starting point is actually the point - we need to start somewhere!
Once we begin our spiritual discernment and grow in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, the Gifts of the Spirit will be made known to us and we will begin to manifest the fruit of those gifts. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are completely otherly from us—they are actual gifts, while the Fruit of the Holy Spirit is the product of a changed and changing disposition and inner life based on the reception of those gifts. The fruit is the change in the inner self and thereby the witness of life lived in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
So, recognizing a Gift of the Holy Spirit in me, I live into that Gift by exercising it for the Glory of God thereby deepening my relationship with Christ. In this deepening relationship I find, well, a deeper understanding of all things (in Christ) and manifest (say JOY) as the Fruit of the Spirit.
Hmmm, finding Joy in Lent? Not so much out there as in here. More to come on our shared journey Wednesday night!
I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. John 15:11
Holy Lord God, help us to begin our Lenten Journey with open hearts, filled with your Joy. Help us to give ourselves up to spiritual efforts, to cleanse our minds, our souls, and our flesh. Help us to take pleasure in the good works of the Holy Spirit and to accomplish works of love that will witness to the love given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
It may sound strange to suggest that we can anticipate joy while we are heavy laden in Lent. We anticipate Easter with every step of our journey through Lent, but why stop there? No, I do not mean to suggest that we do not experience the joy of Easter after Easter. I mean why stop with anticipation? Why not experience joy now?
As Norman Wirzba, Professor of Theology at Duke University, notes:
“Let’s get clear about our most basic commitments and attachments and then determine if they have their impulse in a clean heart. The time of Lent is not about saying ‘No’ to anything made or provided by God. It cannot be, because everything God has made is good and beautiful, a gift and blessing that God has provided as the expression of his love. If there is a ‘No’ that has to be said, it will be a ‘No’ directed to the distorting and degrading ways we have developed in appropriating these gifts. We do not appreciate how in mishandling the gifts of God we bring ruin to ourselves and to the world while we are in the midst of having a good time.”
We have so many Lenten traditions and practices: giving up, denying, abstaining, or taking on labors which curtail other areas of our lives even as gazing north denies us the vistas of the south. We are, after all, creatures and seemingly incapable of multidimensional action, but we are also Christians and blessed by the indwelling power of God.
If you have already begun your Lenten practice of denial and fasting, that is perfectly fine, but add one more component—God. Lent is really focused on us—maybe too much. Instead of dwelling on the crack in your armor, look to the armorer for help. Instead of lamenting the circumstances that brought you to this point, celebrate the potential and possible wonders ahead! Instead of seeing failure and weakness in the mirror, witness the miracle and wonder of a child of God!
There is a story of a woman in Lent…
“I thought that serving in a shelter would distract me from my cravings, and I specifically stayed out of the kitchen, but now I stood before the table anxious and angry. Angry that I wanted to eat so badly, not because I was hungry--but because I was addicted, and anxious that I would not be able to fight off the urge and I would fail again. By the third week of Lent I hated food, because I hated myself for wanting it, and I hated God for making it so good. When the people came in, my anxiety grew unbearable, as they took the food all I could think about was, “There won’t be enough for me!”
I heard her crying before I saw her. She had already received a plateful and one for her daughter, but I had not noticed her, I was focused on the food. Now I saw her, crying as she fed her daughter, and I heard a co-worker say that they hadn’t eaten in two days. Now I saw her, I saw her, not the food—now, I saw her.
I have served at the shelter every week since that day. I am filled with joy that I am so loved by a God who makes such wonderful things for us. Where once I craved food to fill me up, now I am filled to overflowing with God’s love as others are fed. Sometimes I sit with them and talk about the abundance of God and the joy God has for us all. I always ask them about their life, and they always ask me what it’s like to be the cook.
Peace in Christ,
“Remember you are dust…”
Preparing for our Online service and Observance of Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2021 7:00 p.m.
This year, our Ash Wednesday service will be a bit more intimate than in the past. Strange to use that word in the context of our current “Zoom” worship services, isn’t it?! Intimate: something that is “innermost and cherished.” Perhaps a better word is “familial.” Ash Wednesday is always an intimate time and our worship together is always an intimate experience. But this year we will gather in our homes, inviting God into that time and space as we gather in couples, singles, families, and all of us one—a familial embrace. As odd as this may seem at first, there is nothing “virtual” about it–I believe our prayers will enfold us into a spiritual comfort in which we will truly encounter the holiness of God.
As we ready ourselves for Lent and how to observe it under changed circumstances, I want to remind you that the Spiritual truths are unchanged: As always, the two key components of Ash Wednesday are prayer and meditation. It takes time and spiritual effort to allow God in, to share the innermost parts of you and cherish God above all other things, people and concepts (safety, health, etc.) in your life. Embrace that time with this earnest beginning.
Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. Ash Wednesday service, BCP page 264
The Ash Wednesday service is the very first service listed in the BCP section of “Proper Liturgies for Special Days” (See page 264). Think of it a little like a spiritual new year, then. Like all liturgical services, it is both a lens and focal point. As a lens, the service focuses our attention on the theological and spiritual reality of our state and condition as creatures. As creatures go, we are foremost and precious in the mind and heart of God, but we are also simply created beings: broken and in need or redemption. So, we look with new eyes on ourselves and our lives as they truly are.
Ash Wednesday is itself, also a focal point, a moment in time that draws us away from everything else. The service demands our attention, as all services do, if we are going to focus that lens in a manner through which we can truly see the face of God.
This year we must take extra care as in all our services, to tend the “focal point.” As we gather by ZOOM or YouTube, the mechanics of how we are gathering will attempt to trivialize and distract us; in effect the mechanics can quickly become the focal point. We must resist this distraction in the same manner that we would resist focusing on a fly or particle of dust or other superficial distraction. Yet another opportunity for self-discipline God will help with if you ask.
I encourage you to prepare for our service beforehand by changing your gathering space to reflect our time together. A simple way to do this is to light a candle and place it where you can see it. Perhaps add a glass of water as well, a reminder that Jesus is the Water of Life and without this water we cannot live. You may choose to do more to your worship space, let the Spirit lead. In short, make the space different, dedicated and focused at this moment for this time together. Now that you are put in mind--embraced by the Focal Point, now you can focus that lens on the deeper message of the Gospel.
Like so many services, this service invites you to partake of a radical and profound action, an act of acknowledgement and reception which carries the power to alter your life. If we were gathered at church, you would walk to the altar rail and receive the Imposition of Ashes, but not this year. Far from being a “lesser sacrament,” this year’s “self-imposition”, or home-imposition, of ashes has the potential of power and revelation as yet unknown. You will take the ash, You say the words, You will hold symbol of life and death in your hand and choose. It’s a sacramental act with or without your faith and attention, for God’s work is immutable, but how much more meaningful and life-changing it can be with your spiritual investment.
The choice for Life come from the reality of death. It may seem strange to look or contemplate ash—the reduction of a thing to its absolute inert state, and see life, but that is what we do. Symbolically, the ash signifies the end of all things we want and desire that are not of God. The ash represents even hope and perspective, the love we feel and the pain we experience based on our desires in an earthly system that is falling away, though we try to hang on to it. Misguided focus and misappropriated effort are reduced to ash, and at last, our line of sight is broken and we see True Life—behind the Cross on our forehead.
So, how do I get ashes?
You will need a small bowl, a spoon, matches, and patience.
Here are several methods to consider (don’t miss #4):
Our Ash Wednesday Service will be the same and yet different. A wonderful, miraculous time of anticipation, manifestation, and revelation, through which God is present and you are blessed. Please call me with any questions on how I can assist you to be part of the Body on Ash Wednesday.
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” - John 3:6-8
Our spiritual life is a very important part of who we are in general and who we are specifically as Christians. I have often said that if we were to equate our status of being as a Christian with our status of being as a citizen, it is akin to holding dual citizenship. If I held dual citizenship papers I would be, in effect, a full citizen of two nations with all the rights and responsibilities of both. We are made both of the flesh and of the spirit, and we must live into dual reality of our being.
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6
Our spirit enables us to have a spiritual connection to the Holy Spirit, through whom we experience the life of God flowing through us. The night before he died, Jesus consecrated the Disciples with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room and pre-figured the full coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His communion, his “with-ness” with us, is our rebirth. This revelation of the presence of God with us was the pivotal point of life in the post Ascension era. To be “Born Again” and to recognize the indwelling life of the Holy Spirit is to faithfully live our lives as the “spiritual citizens” Jesus has called us to be. Living into our spiritual life and growing spiritually is not only a mark of Christian Baptism but a necessity of Christian life. Put more bluntly, if you are the same person you were last year at this time, you have some spiritual growing up to do.
There is much you may currently be doing to grow spiritually, or you have tried in the past, but God calls us daily, even moment by moment. It’s not like a new yoga class or diet or fitness regimen, or anything that can be completed and passed. Living “in the spirit” is a constant awareness of the presence of God in life—and in your life, specifically—and a faithful and prayerful submission to God’s shaping of you. And because trust, obedience, humility, and un-self-awareness are not the most human of virtues, there is always more you can do to grow in the Spirit.
Oftentimes, the hard part in the process of spiritual growth is figuring out where to start. I have put links to two “Spiritual Inventories” below: one is an on-line assessment and the other will need to be printed. Both are well formulated and constructed by other church groups. Because of this they will have specific suggestions at the end that will match their parish. When you finish, simply “insert here” our parish resources or call me and I will help construct a “Spiritual Growth Plan” specifically for you!
Online Spiritual Life Inventory
PDF Personal Spiritual Inventory
“We are one in the Spirit—We are one in the Lord!”
Hello, Creator Family –
Hope you are enjoying the “snow days” from a warm, safe spot. It has been a beautiful reminder for me that Winter--the seasons and the passage of time--still occurs, even though the pandemic seems to have suspended and upended so much. It can’t touch this: the certainty of a winter storm. What else can’t it touch?
Recently, I was talking with a friend whose heart is heavy-laden with the trials and tribulations of our present life. I say, our present life because he was weighed down by concerns that seemed to expand exponentially from our inner self, our spirit, out to encompass and embrace this broken and desperate world. There is no wonder that he suffers so, that so many suffer under this sense of doom that seems to blanket our every turn even as the snow covers the ground—but we are not meant for this.
The rhythmic blows of separation and incongruity ripple through the heart destined for wholeness and love. The tap, tap, tap assault of politics and personal interplay create spider cracks in the spirit and sadness, and fear resonates with each pounding blow—but we are not meant for this.
Eyes, our eyes, are the “window of the soul,” said Plato. That’s true of those who look into the heart of the bearer, but what of those looking out? Eyes see, not a world untouched by human hands, but a world tamed by mind and spirit. The eyes see only as the heart knows, and the mind understands, and spirit lights; the eyes are our windows through which we see the mirror—we are meant for this.
Now in this time of life, life bracketed by eternal hope and divine intention, we resonate with the sound of angels’ breath. Taking into ourselves the broken and fallen earth-scape, we are touched by God, and in cold isolation, feel the warming ruah of the Holy Spirit bringing is alive in the Body—we are meant for this.
Half a country away, I wanted to grab this friend of mine and not let go. I wanted to stare into his eyes and tell him of the love and life that God breathes there—there in his spirit. I wanted to show him that the cracks are not fractures and the breaking is not broken, and the world is not emptied of compassion and peace. Though the cold and winter of heart and soul seems prevailing, the fire of God’s love is ever burning—we are to know this.
In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter
A stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
In the Bleak Midwinter, by Christina Rossetti
To be blessed unexpectedly, to be startled out of our complacency by God’s grace, is a way for God to remind us that that we are never alone or abandoned—even when we think we are. “Blessed,” though widely used, is a deeply Christian word. It is a spiritual word. It is a biblical word. People may talk about ‘blessings’ in their lives, but a Christian truly knows what it is to be blessed—it is the witness to the presence of God!
So, what does it mean to be blessed? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us we are makarios, “blessed,” which literally means to be happy or blissful. But it also denotes a self-contained happiness. The Greeks called the island of Cyprus ‘the happy isle’. They believed that, because of its geographical location, perfect climate, and fertile soil, anyone who lived on Cyprus had all the essentials for true contentment. And the term they associated with the island was makarios. They believed everything you needed to be happy was right there on the island.
We can’t all move to Cyprus, but the idea is that our happiness is independent of our circumstances. It is self-contained, meaning that regardless of what is happening to us externally, we can be truly happy internally. God’s amazingly identifiable blessings that interrupt our lives and draw us up short, those blessings are to get our attention, like a bright yellow road sign that there is a curve up ahead. The curve is already there, the sign just makes us more attentive. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been promised that every day God’s “road sign” is life itself! In this way every moment of every day is a blessing from God! This is the reason that Jesus both began and concluded his earthly ministry by blessing people.
C.S. Lewis was right when he said, “When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” That’s how God works. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but he always gives us what we need. That’s a huge difference, so our loss may end up being great gain; our request may end up being better. And whatever it is we pray for or blessing we have or lose, God always knows what he’s doing. We can trust him infinitely more than we can trust ourselves.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8
In times when we are “up against it,” when all we have left is hope, what can hope really do?
Epiphany means manifestation, the reality of a thing coming into being. The Magi saw the Star in the heavens as the light of Hope—hope that a new life, a new world was possible. This light led them to the true light that enlightens all things, and the Christ has been shinning into the hearts of people everywhere ever since.
All too often, what we call “hope” is actually desperation, the speaking of a word in a time of fear or confusion that is little more than a place holder. Our “hope” is not founded on love or light, but a product of hard times or selfish ambition. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the funny memes, Facebook posts, even newspaper cartoons bidding a humorous goodbye and “good riddance” to the year 2020, to make room for the hope of a brighter new year. There were even Christmas Cards and printed sentiments circulating to that effect since during these times, when I can’t exactly wish you “JOY!” at the holiday, or merriment or happiness or health or any of life’s blessings so often taken in stride and taken for granted, “Hope” this season came to be what we had left to share and extend to one another. Hope for the vaccine. Hope for a return to health and an end to a year-long and worldwide pandemic. Hope for a peaceful transfer of power. Hope for social harmony. The list goes on and soon includes more personal, detailed, and daily hopes for the relationships and realities of our lives; we yearn and hope for all of it. How much more profound is the manifestation of Christ to our everyday lives when we embrace His light and find His Hope!
As people of Christ, Jesus coming into our hearts plants divine Hope which can be manifested in our lives once we embrace the indwelling Holy Spirit. Independent of fear and lightyears from desperation, Divine Hope propels us beyond doubt to joy and the revelation of God with us.
We celebrated the turn of the calendar to 2021 with many discouraging events in our lives: the pandemic, political confusion, social unrest, economic strife, and our own personal issues. Today, perhaps more than ever, we need to follow the light of Divine Hope that God has given us through Jesus. Certainly, the Hope of a life eternal with God, but also to recognize and follow the light of Divine Hope that shines through the worst of the times we live in. This Divine Hope brightens our days because it brightens our spirits. We can be filled with joy knowing that below the fear and desperation is the true foundation of our lives: God, overflowing with love and compassion and speaking our name.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11
Ahhh, Epiphany, the season of light. But it seems there is a weariness and darkness pervading this otherwise illumined time of year. Do you feel it? See it? Scripture says we are all children of light, but to be honest, friends, we all may be stumbling a bit these days. Perhaps that’s why, on the shortest darkest day of 2020, the winter solstice last month, we experienced a bona fide cosmic event that manifested in a brilliant and, shall I say, familiar star--a tangible visible sign that our Creator God is at work.
In Genesis 1:3, the very first creative act, before days even existed to number the first day… “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” As a young child hearing this I wondered what it meant. As I grew older, I understood that the verb “Let” used here is fashioned in the ‘royal sense,’ as in “Let us be seated.” Maybe you’ve responded before to the “royal ‘we’” at your house before? Interesting little theological fun fact: in the creation account in Genesis, the “royal sense” does contain the authority necessary to compel everyone to sit; it does not however, convey the absolute authority which demands assent. In other words, the queen may have to speak twice.
In actuality, the Hebrew word for “Let” is yeh; in Latin, fiat Lux, neither of which could be confused with the ‘royal sense’. The literal translation is ‘light exist’ and it is a statement of absolute authority, as the result of speaking it immediately causes light to exist with no second word necessary. This is how we understand the author of the universe “speaking” our world into existence.
In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus exclaims, “I am the light of the world” (8:12) as a declarative statement not open to debate. His self-identification is a proclamation of absolute authority and a connection to the Creation event itself. Speaking it so makes it so. Perhaps in our current “muted” existence (I mean this term both literally and also metaphorically), when our lives are “on hold,” suspended, upended, waiting, wondering, wandering, that once again our Creator God and our Lord and savior are speaking light into our darkest corners. It’s brand new. And it’s all for you.
Each Epiphany season we are reminded that Christ came to save the world, to shine the “Light of Life” to all people. The Light of God, whether the illumination of the cosmos or the illumination within the soul of every human being, is the light that leads through the darkness of self-doubt and wandering to true peace and love. Campus Minister Aimee Joseph wrote to her University of San Diego students, “We are all created to crave the Creator, our Father, and only through a relationship with our Savior Jesus can the dark parts of our hearts brighten. When I admit I am not enough, I’m freed to run and cling to the God who is.” That nagging sense that I am not enough is a result of the “Light shining in the darkness” of my soul and illuminating the pathway to joy and felicity.
You have received the Light of Life into your heart and soul through the waters of Baptism and continue to grow in the Light through your worship and devotion. Mark this Epiphany 2021 as the moment when you resolve to truly embrace the Light and to shine forth that light for those who cannot as yet see.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Happy New Year, Creator family, and a blessed Epiphany – Our lives are never going to be the same!
The Greek word "Epiphaneia" means "appearance" or "manifestation," but perhaps a better working definition for us is one penned by an unknown author in a online questionnaire:
[Epiphany is] a realization; an opening; a portal to the Divine; growing up; a magic moment that impacts you and changes you forever and you can remember it as vividly as you experienced it; a moment that changes the lens through which you view your life; our soul scratching around our head and giving us a signal to guide our lives with; a moment of descending light, open knowledge, and choice; a drastic shift in energy and change of perspective that happens in the form of a moment of clarity; something that gives you the strength to take a different direction or move forward and opens up everything; a sense of wonderment; a clarifying direction; and, that moment where you know your life is never going to be the same.
In the church year, the season of "Epiphany" is the joyful celebration of “call,” God’s call to the world by God to come to the Savior and the call of the Wise to take the journey. We celebrate this event on January 6th, but Epiphany lives in every baptized person year-round!
Epiphany is the state of being in which new beginnings are ever possible and God’s light leads us through the darkness. Epiphany is the word that shouts GLORY and MIRACLE in every moment and proclaims LOVE and BLESSING in every heart!
The Holy Spirit continues to open people’s hearts and minds spiritually to perceive, receive, worship, and serve Christ in the world in as many unique ways as there are people. This Epiphany story continues to happen every day in our lives--in our congregations, our communities, and in the lives of people of other races, nations, and languages. Each day, God’s deep compassion breaks upon our world, forgiving sins, and giving light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, guiding us all in the path of peace (Luke 1:77-79).
We are all on a pilgrimage of faith and hope that continually grows our love for God and others through the years. Each day, new people come to the realization that God is God, and Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. People everywhere seek and need mature disciples and vital congregations that can spiritually nurture, guide, and encourage them on their pilgrimage of faith and hope.
Claim Epiphany as God’s gift and call--and actively engage everyone and everything through the Light of Christ! My prayer is that the epiphanic light of God will shine so brightly through our pilgrim lives and our congregation so that new hearts, tender hearts, restless hearts, broken hearts, and searching hearts may attain spiritual insight, see and discern God’s gracious activity in their lives, and find their way into the fulness of Christ’s overwhelming love, mercy, joy, and promises.
May the Light of the Father’s love and the burning presence of the Holy Spirit lead you and guide you to boldly proclaim the Grace and Mercy of Jesus, our Savior and King.
When Word invested in flesh,
No matter the shrouds that swathed it
Merry Christmas, Creator family! For, as the Body we are well aware that Christmas is a season, not a single day. We will go right on rejoicing, celebrating, cherishing the miracle and reality of Emmanuel in our lives—to Epiphany and beyond. Harder to do this year, no doubt, with all of the restrictions, worry, dangers to health, loss, separation and hardship, but no less a miracle and a reality. Perhaps that’s the reason to focus on the single “moment” of Christmas, the single day, minute, hour when the God of Creation and eternity entered time. For it is a moment too awesome to imagine, really. In the Christmas Day service, I spoke about a Nativity Icon, the one shown below, and have been meditating and reflecting on its beauty and significance throughout this holiday week. I pointed to the beauty of image and color as a reflection of the passages of Scripture we heard during the Christmas Eve service. There is so much in this icon to see and to reflect on, still more that I was not able to talk about that day.
Study it a bit further with me, for that is what icons are intended to be: holy art, that deepens and enriches the more you behold and meditate upon the image. Here, below, an icon entitled “The Nativity Of Our Lord.” You will see the baby Jesus at the center, wrapped in “swaddling cloths” (Luke 2:12). The swaddling clothes are a traditional and current practice, which has been proven to help the baby transition from womb to world. At a deeper level, we see the “bands” of cloths and think ahead to a time when Jesus will be wrapped again, bound to this earth and entombed for all time. This imagery of binding and death is not only a profound and poignant foreshadowing of what is to come, but also the present condition of God the Word in the incarnation.
The counterpart and reason behind this beautiful icon is the scripture we have heard proclaimed and sung through this week: “The Word became flesh” (John 1:1)—God becoming human, is the incredible action of the infinite becoming finite, the Divine becoming mortal, the life becoming death. From the moment that Divine Word took on mortal flesh, the unbelievable was put in motion—God would die. Roger Whittaker, in his song The First Hello, sings, “They say the moment that you’re born is when you start to die, and the first time we said hello began our last goodbye,” as a lyrical adaptation of an ancient sentiment pondered by great thinkers throughout the ages. It is this immutable truth that was at the root of the rejection of Jesus by the Sadducees and Temple Priests and is a “stumbling block” even today.
Why would the immortal God become flesh and die? There are those that still say this can’t happen, and it can’t—or rather, it wouldn’t happen if there were another way to redeem our nature, reconcile all Creation and save us from death. To quote from another singer I admire, Michael Card, “Why did they nail him to the Cross? His love would have held him there….” God knew that death itself, as a permanent state of being, must be changed into a state of transition from one form of life to another. Only God’s self could initiate that change and create new life out death.
Elton Higgs’ third poem in his trilogy of poems, Christ in You the Hope of Glory, rightly and beautifully shares the depth of the iconic image of swaddling life!
"And the Word Became Flesh" (John 1:1)
When Word invested in flesh,
No matter the shrouds that swathed it;
The donning of sin's poor corpse
Was rightly wrapped in robes of death.
Yet breath of God
Broke through the shroud,
Dispersed the cloud
That darkened every birth before.
Those swaddling bands bespoke
A glory in the grave,
When flesh emerged as Word.
Take up this flesh, O Lord:
Re-form it with Your breath,
That, clothed in wordless death,
It may be Your Word restored.
Embrace the miracle and the reality of Christmas, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ll leave you with a few more thoughts on the Incarnation until we meet again to celebrate his inextinguishable light at the Epiphany:
“The resurrection of Christ is one of the foundation-stones of Christianity. It was the seal of the great work that He came on earth to do. It was the crowning proof that the ransom He paid for sinners was accepted, the atonement for sin accomplished, the head of him who had the power of death bruised, and the victory won.”
“After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might.”