The season of Advent is so easily taken over by the bustle of Christmas preparations. We must pause to listen for “that other voice… letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”(i) Our hearts need room to behold Christ incarnate. We need room to come close to the reality we celebrate at Christmas – quiet space and time, for dreams and poetry and listening and wonder – to enter into the mystery of our God coming closer to us than we are to ourselves.
Sometimes people can walk right through a mystery and not even know it is there. This time of year you will see people hurrying in the malls buying things and doing this and that, but they will miss the Mystery. They don’t know how to get ready or maybe they just forgot. The Church learned a long time ago that people need a way to get ready to enter or even come close to a mystery like Christmas.(ii)
Amazing love! How can it be? The Word through whom all things were made, the Light of Life itself, descended to earth and took on flesh. God entered the gentle warmth of the womb to be knit together by the very animating vitality that is His gift to His creation. He became a baby who awaited the pleasure of a breastful of milk and a mother’s kiss on His brow. Before His heavenly throne angels cover their faces, and yet He subjected Himself to the gifts and sorrows of human life in this beautiful and broken world. He came not just to bless or sympathize, but to redeem. And redeem He did, as Forsyth writes: “We commit ourselves to one who has both the solution of every tragic thing and the glory of every dark thing clear and sure in a kingdom that cannot be moved.”(iii)
“The whole meaning of the Incarnation is that the Sovereign Lord has become present to us, through His Son and by His Spirit.”(iv) This is God’s great secret, the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people (Colossians 1:26, NIV). Our holy, almighty God covered every mile of the distance we’ve run from Him. Christ’s mission was and is to stand in the very center of our need, our helplessness, our brokenness, to enter the hardened heart, the terrorized heart, the stained heart, and exchange our ruin for His holy life. “Christ says ever and always, ‘Give me your pain, your sin, your sorrow. My Life I give in exchange for all that binds you.'”(v) This stanza of poetry from Catherine Winkworth expresses the heart’s desire to receive Him:
The light of reason cannot give
Life to my soul;
Jesus alone can make me truly live,
One glance of His can make my spirit whole.
Arise, and shine,
O Jesus, on this longing heart of mine! (vi)
Another lives in me – alleluia! Lord Jesus Christ, I thank and praise You for imparting Your own life to me. I thank you that You are the center of my life. I offer to You the one thing I can truly give – my choice, my will, my total yielding to You. May it be to me according to Your word. Overshadow me, Holy Ghost. Bring Your desires to life in me. Fill me, Holy One. Descend into me, radiate through me. You are my King; reign at the very center of my being. Increase and magnify Your life in me, that I may bear Your fragrance, Your holy presence, everywhere I go. Empower me to practice Your Presence in more of my moments, to know You and live in union with You more wholly. Move me to receive You through repentance, through worship, through listening to and obeying every word You speak. Glory to You in the highest, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
by Sarah Colyn
(i) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 100
(ii) J. Berryman, The Complete Guide to Godly Play, Volume 3, p. 30
(iii) P. T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, p. 62
(iv) L. Payne, The Healing Presence, p. 91
(v) L. Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul, p. 64
(vi) from The Dawn by Catherine Winkworth in Lyra Germanica: First Series, Songs for the Household, 1855
Painting: Nativity of Christ, Lorenzo Lotto, 1523