God Among Us: Even In Us

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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

 

To look at the last great self-portraits of Rembrandt or to read Pascal or hear Bach’s B-minor Mass is to know beyond the need for further evidence that if God is anywhere, he is with them, as he is also with the man behind the meat counter, the woman who scrubs floors at Roosevelt Memorial, the high-school math teacher who explains fractions to the bewildered child. And the step from “God with them” to Emmanuel, “God with us,” may not be as great as it seems.

What keeps the wild hope of Christmas alive year after year in a world notorious for dashing all hopes is the haunting dream that the child who was born that day may yet be born again even in us and our own snowbound, snowblind longing for him.
~Frederick Buechner

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Christina Rossetti, a great 19th century poet, reminds us in her pithy earthy words below, how heaven could not hold God.  Even though He is worshiped by angels, it is enough for Him to be held in His mother’s arms, His face kissed, His tummy full, to be bedded in a manger.  It is enough for Him, and He is enough for us — even born in us, poor as we are — snowbound and ice-locked as we are in our longing for something more.

Our hearts are enough for Him who came here when heaven could not hold Him.
Imagine that.
~EPG

 

 

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, long ago.

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, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give Him my heart.
~Christina Rossetti 1872

Who hears?
Who hears the voice of the hungry, the thirsty?

Who sees?
Who sees the tears of the suffering ones?

Imagine a King who would come through the darkness
And walk where I walk, full of greatness,
And call me to His side,
Just like a Father and child.

Who knows?
Who knows the hopes that lie hidden forgotten?
Who comes?
Who comes to lead all the children home?
~Kristyn Getty

 

Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed,
The world is sleeping,
Holy Star its vigil keeping.
Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.

Sleep, sleep, sleep,
‘Tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth.
The night is peaceful all around you,
Close your eyes,
Let sleep surround you.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
‘Tis the eve of our Saviour’s birth.

Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.
While guardian angels without number,
Watch you as you sweetly slumber.
Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.

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Awaiting His Arrival: From Poverty to Abundance

 

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He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty. Luke 1:58

No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look Down on others, those who have no need even of God – for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.

~ Oscar Romero

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A Canticle for Advent: Turn Our Darkness Into Light

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O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
dispel the shadows of the night,
and turn our darkness into light.

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace.
12tth Century (Latin)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.
“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.
Isaiah 59:20

This haunting hymn from the 12th century is often among the first hymns sung in worship during the Advent season.  It is plaintive in its plainness of plea, calling Jesus by His many names.  In coming to us,  He will change our hearts and our world, turning our darkness into light, dispelling the shadows forever.

These daily Advent reflections are each devoted to one Christmas carol (or canticle) to prepare us for God dwelling among us– then, now and forever more.

Advent Meditation–Immanuel

God’s covenant with His people is recorded early in history: the rainbow as a sign of His promise not to destroy the earth again,  a promise to Abraham to increase his descendants to as many as the stars in the sky, or the sands of the sea, the renewal of the broken bond of fellowship with His idolatrous people, the faithful remnant, then finally that a descendant of David would rule His people, including all nations.

So Isaiah’s announcement that a virgin would bear a son whose name, Immanuel, means “God with us” must have not seemed very clear to God’s people.  God had already promised to be with His people, many times in many ways, and had proven His faithfulness over and over again.

Yet generations later, when a teenager is told she is with child by the Holy Spirit, and her betrothed husband plans to quietly divorce himself from their planned marriage,  he is assured by the Lord in a dream about the true nature of this pregnancy.  Matthew reminds us of the Old Testament promise of a son to come, and suddenly it becomes clear:  God will be living with us, as a man, born of woman.  There is no greater covenant than God walking alongside us, knowing us as son, brother, friend, teacher and in the ultimate bond with His people, dying in our place.  God with us, God in our place, God fulfilling His promises–always.

Isaiah 7:14  and Matthew 1:23