So, I am a fairly strict no-Christmas-anything before Thanksgiving sort of person.
In church yesterday we sang a song that is loosely about the advent of Christ and is on a Christmas CD. I had a serious moral dilemma about whether or not I could in good conscience sing it. Which was a good opportunity for me to reflect on my arrogance and stubbornness and how I can let petty things distract me from worship.
(I did end up singing. The fact that it felt like a painful betrayal is all kinds of ridiculous, and you should probably psychoanalyze me immediately.)
However, today I am joined by a friend, Stephanie Ebert, who has written an ebook collection of Advent reflections. I read through them last year and really appreciated the moments to pause and reflect on what Jesus’ incarnation in the midst of a dark world really means. She’s a very talented writer, and I always feel like I learn something when I read her thoughts. She agreed to share one of the reflections with you all today. (Don’t worry, people with a firm Scroogish-stance on these things…it’s not jingle bells and reindeer, just thoughts on the meaning of God With Us, which is pretty applicable all year round.)
Since Advent devotions are kind of important to have before December, I’ve broken my November ban on Christmassy things to have her join the blog with some thoughts on the sacred and the ordinary. If this intrigues you enough to buy the whole book, In the Valley of the Shadow Light Has Dawned (and it’s only $3.99!), I’d highly recommend it. You should also head over to her blog, check it out, and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy.
Okay, here’s Stephanie, everyone! (Don’t play Christmas music while reading this. I can only go so far.)
Week Two: Incarnation
They say there are no sacred spaces.
They say this is just a shelter to keep off the rain.
Everything is common.
Just bricks. Just cement. Just a scratchy brown carpet like you’d find in any building built in the 80’s. It’s just stuff—just a rain shelter.
And the Eucharist is just grape juice. Just brown bread.
But they forget that this stuff is the stuff that stars are made of.
These ever-spinning neutrons, these ever-firing neurons—this is life and this is all held together by the power of his command, and there are no ordinary things.
is charged with the grandeur of God.
We are the ones that make it common with our clunky muddy boots.
Our feet shod, we trample on holy ground.
They say there are no sacred spaces.
It is only Words that can be holy. Those are the truth.
But have we forgotten that the Word became flesh and lived among us?
He tabernacled, he took our ordinary lungs, and hearts, and fingernails and lived in them.
God, living in matter, saying, “This matters.”
Have we forgotten that Truth isn’t an idea but a person?
A person who trudged, who ate, who laughed, who burped, who worshipped, who sang, who cried, who worked, who listened, who slept?
A person who healed broken bodies? A person who fed hungry people? A person who turned water into wine?
God-with-us wasn’t tainted by the common-ness of skin and flesh and bones.
He made skin and flesh and bones holy.
And he made humanity a sanctuary.
Now we’re the temple.
There are no ordinary human beings.
Where is our reverence for each other?
We stand on holy ground.
Is nothing sacred?
It may be brown bread and grape juice, but this isn’t just a picnic under a rain shelter. Through our coming together, our prayers, our bowed hearts, our thankfulness, the Spirit working in us, in his church – this becomes Eucharist. It becomes a sacrament, a visible means of invisible grace. The common ordinary staples of life are sanctified, set apart, made holy. And when we remember together the death of our savior, and when we eat and drink together his grace is again freshly imparted to our selves, body and soul.
And he could have said, ‘Recite to the Lord the greatness of his power,” but instead he said SING! Use your voices, and fingers, and hands and body, and all the emotion with on you and sing to the Lord a new song, sing praises to his name. Make something beautiful, and let its beauty glorify the Lord.
It’s not just the idea of the greatness of God that matters. It’s the way we express it with our guitar strings and organ keys and violin bows and clashing cymbals.
We’re not just passing through the heavy chains of atoms and molecules until one day we’re liberated spirits. We are alive now, and because of Christ we will continue to be alive forever, with hands and stomachs and hearts and voices and so it’s not just stuff.
It’s not just a rain shelter.
It’s not just bread and grape juice.
It’s not just ideas.
It’s God with us.
It’s a world charged with the grandeur of God.
It’s Bach and Gregorian chants, Zulu choruses and violin concertos, ballet dancers and stained-glass windows, the Hallelujah chorus and DaVinci sculptures.
Because now that God has broken through, everything is sacred.
“The word became flesh and tabernacled among us. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only. No one has ever seen God, but Jesus, who is near to the Father’s heart, has made him plain to us.” ~from John 1:14 and 18