God Was Here: Reclaiming His Own

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Now burn, new born to the world,
Doubled-naturéd name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame,
Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark
as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not
a lightning of fire hard-hurled.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins, from “The Wreck of the Deutschland.”
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God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy.  This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey.  The God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles but always can trust that he walks with us.

The challenge is to let God be who he wants to be.  A part of us clings to our aloneness and does not allow God to touch us where we are most in pain.  Often we hide from him precisely those places in ourselves where we feel guilty, ashamed, confused, and lost.  Thus we do not give him a chance to be with us where we feel most alone.

Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid and to let him-whose love is greater than our own hearts and minds can comprehend-be our companion.
— Henri Nouwen from Gracias: A Latin American Journal

 

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Like so many, I tend to walk through life blinded to what is really important, essential and necessary.  I am self-absorbed,  immersed in my own troubles and concerns, staring at my own feet as I walk each step, rather than looking forward at the road ahead, listening to the companion who has always walked beside me.

We were joined by this living breathing walking God as He feeds us from His word. I hunger for even more, my heart burning within me.   Jesus makes plain how He Himself addresses my most basic needs:

He is the bread of life so I am fed.

He is the living water so I no longer thirst.

He is the light so I am never left in darkness.

He shares my yoke so my burden is easier.

He clothes me with righteousness so I am never naked.

He cleanses me when I am at my most soiled and repugnant.

He is the open door–always welcoming, with a room prepared for me.

So when I encounter Him along the road of my life,  I need to be ready to recognize him, listen, invite Him in to stay, share whatever I have with Him.    When He breaks bread and hands me my piece, I want to accept it with open eyes of gratitude, knowing the gift He hands me is nothing less than Himself, the Companion we were blessed with Christmas morning.

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I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God’s heaven, a star’s light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God’s Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
~Appalachian Carol

 

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Gayety of Stride

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Photo by Joel DeWaard

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It’s the immemorial feelings
I like the best: hunger, thirst,
their satisfaction; work-weariness,
earned rest; the falling again
from loneliness to love;
the green growth the mind takes
from the pastures in March;
the gayety in the stride 
of a good team of Belgian mares
that seems to shudder from me
through all my ancestry.
~Wendell Berry “Goods”

No one can say I haven’t worked hard enough.

Pulling on the tugs, pushing into the yoke that I willingly allowed to weigh me down,

my ancestry birthed me for this hard work weariness.

But they might say I have lost the gayety in my stride, having hit too many rocks and run head-long into stumps.

They might say the joy lies deeper than my plow can reach.

 

 

Called to Advent–yoking

Horse Team by Edvard Munch

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:29-30

An old fashioned yoke, a solid wood piece that fits over and under the necks of a team of oxen, guarantees that the two must move in synchrony and pull together, unlike the more flexible harness and collar of a team of horses. In harness, one of the team can hold back and not share in the load, but the yoke is always shared. What one carries, so the other walks along in step sharing the same burden.

I draw great comfort from being invited to be yoked with Christ, knowing He is right alongside me, pulling with me and for me, understanding the load I bear. What better team mate can there be, teaching me in gentleness and humility, telling me when it is okay to take a breather and rest.

I need that now. I need Him alongside always.


What can be lighter than a burden which takes our burdens away, and a yoke which bears up the bearer himself?

– Bernard of Clairvaux

Did you ever stop to ask what a yoke is really for? Is it to be a burden to the animal which wears it? It is just the opposite: it is to make its burden light. Attached to the oxen in any other way than by a yoke, the plow would be intolerable; worked by means of a yoke, it is light. A yoke is not an instrument of torture; it is an instrument of mercy. It is not a malicious contrivance for making work hard; it is a gentle device to make hard labor light. [Christ] knew the difference between a smooth yoke and a rough one, a bad fit and a good one… The rough yoke galled, and the burden was heavy; the smooth yoke caused no pain, and the load was lightly drawn. The badly fitted harness was a misery; the well fitted collar was “easy”. And what was the “burden”? It was not some special burden laid upon the Christian, some unique infliction that they alone must bear. It was what all men bear: it was simply life, human life itself, the general burden of life which all must carry with them from the cradle to the grave. Christ saw that men took life painfully. To some it was a weariness, to others failure, to many a tragedy, to all a struggle and a pain. How to carry this burden of life had been the whole world’s problem. And here is Christ’s solution: “Carry it as I do. Take life as I take it. Look at it from my point of view. Interpret it upon my principles. Take my yoke and learn of me, and you will find it easy. For my yoke is easy, sits right upon the shoulders, and therefore my burden is light.”

… Henry Drummond (1851-1897), Pax Vobiscum