English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
In this season of Advent, in this season of hope, in the darkness of the year, in the darkness of our times, there is a light shining. There is light within each of us and light shining around us. We see the glory of creation and the power of love – compassion, mercy, steadfastness. This is our hope, this is the truth, the God of our hearts; the God of creation. Our faith cries out from the darkness, God is good!
Yet look at me. Look at my life. Look around. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by darkness. Sometimes I wonder, Is there hope? Where is the light?
Yet in the breath I breathe, in the glimmer of the morning horizon- beyond yet near- a gust of wind- a fresh breeze; comes the presence of God. I am lead into the surprise.
In the surprise, I rest. God is good and he calls me to peace, to joy, to love. Joy to the world! Looking within, I find a quiet, dark place- a place of intimacy, a place of enveloping security, a place of birth. God is knitting me together in a place of warm darkness.
It is another darkness that overwhelms. Whatever this darkness, I find security in that comforting darkness. There is a comfort in solitude, in the silence of intimate love that brings birth, new birth, calling you out into the light to know life, to walk in faith, to be kind, to be fully human, to be like Jesus. Jesus my Lord and my God, fully human- the Word made flesh.
Jesus, born of a maid. Jesus Son of God; Messiah, anointed one, prince of peace, very God, very man. The one man our only mediator with God (1 Timothy 2:5).
In the beginning, Eve was formed of Adam. A miracle – the whole of humanity formed from one life. We are all one- all created in God’s image- we share the breath of God with all creatures from the humble bacteria to the majestic ant.
Jesus is the new Adam- born of a woman- taken from her flesh, one flesh. In our age of reason, here is the challenge. God forms God in the dark, secure, warm womb of Mary, carried to Bethlehem in a cruel world. Jesus is formed, fully man from woman.
Is Jesus then like us? None of us were conceived in this way! How then can we say Jesus is fully human? Is it a story?
John 1:9-18 (ESVUK)
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[a] and his own people[b]did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[c] who is at the Father’s side,[d] he has made him known.
Jesus is fully human and fully God and he calls us to be fully human. The mystery of his birth is a challenge and deeply unsettling. Don’t walk away from it. Don’t live a life of bluster and denial. Embrace doubt. Wrestle with it so that it forms you. Don’t try to come up with an easy answer; truth has many layers and Jesus is the truth. Jesus is truth incarnate; truth in the flesh; the Word made flesh. Live with the uncertainty and find the dark place of solitude where the light shines, where you shine. Be fully human. Be God’s hands, feet and mouth- be intimate with God- a child of God- the word become flesh: Our faith.
There is a practice we can share- a practice of daily self-examination. Find a place of quiet and open your arms to the goodness of God and be thankful. Bring your hands inward and sense your need. Open your arms to receive direction from God then rest in the healing promise and wait quietly for strength. God will answer in a whisper; and even if you are only able to do the actions and have no words, he will comfort you. In the hard place you will be formed, in mysterious ways- the ways of life will form you. Even if you feel nothing, you have turned to God and allowed the light to shine in the dark place, the place of fear, the place of entitlement, the places of attachment and rage. Express your lament but do not stay there; walk into the light of life and resolve to bear the light in all circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (ESVUK)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
You are in that place of humility, of knowing your need of a healer. Jesus rests with the humble. The message of the birth of Christ is that God makes his home in the mess. Jesus is at home amongst the filth. He is at home in the misery, at home in the face of cruelty. Jesus is at home on the cross – a broken humanity. Jesus is at home in you. Rest in him as he rests in you. He will surely do it.
“Faith is not a set of beliefs, not a feeling, but communion with light and truth” (Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation). We have seen his glory. The one born in Mary is the resurrected Christ. There is new life in the misery of the stable: Father, Son and Holy Spirit revealed in Jesus.
Ian Adams, Running over rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times, Chapter 21
Mark E Thibodeaux, Reimagining the Ignatian examen: fresh ways to pray from your day