Thursday, December 17, 2009
At the first Christmas God didn’t send a book, or a message via a body-less ‘audible’ voice, no text, no website, no thunderbolt but a baby, a vulnerable body. This was the most vulnerable act where this god-child could have been exposed to emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuse.
‘The incarnation had nothing to do with theology. It was rather about vulnerability, about letting go, about emptiness, about surrender and none of that is in the head’ Richard Rohr
The two big events celebrated in the Christian calendar in remembrance of Jesus are united by the centrality of body. The commonalties include, nakedness, vulnerability, letting go and emptiness. At Christmas, the tenderness of new born soft flesh and at Easter, the torn, whipped stripped, beaten and wounded flesh and finally killed body.
Even though body is central to Church celebrations it remains uncomfortable with body and often is intent on rejecting and punishing the body. Society is full of people who are unhappy with body and feel the need to cover it, decorate it, change it, build it, enhance it and wound it. The Church often appears to be in constant conflict with body and continues to struggle to unite sensuality, sexuality and spirituality with sexuality and gender issues still hotly debated often causing disintegration.
However, when Jesus asked us to re-member him he didn’t ask us to read a book, obey certain laws, recall and repeat special words or perform a ritual. Instead he asked his followers to re-member his body, to embrace body, to eat body, to reconnect with body, to be embodied.
So this incarnation Christ invites us to hold his small vulnerable body and also his whipped, naked, beaten and wounded body. Christ invites us to love body, listen to body, and welcome body and to be tender with body; mine, yours and the body of Christ.
This is the body of Christ,
We are the body of Christ
We are body
Whereas the first week of Advent focuses on the hope of the new creation, the second week looks around at the sinful world we live in now. The mood could not be more different. This is the week we learn to lament. Seeing the evil, corruption, and injustice around us (and in us), we cry out to the King of Righteousness to come and put the world to rights. “Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today!” is our prayer.
To promote the wholesome practice of lament among God’s people, today we run an iMonk post that Michael wrote in December, 2007.
We need a savior.
This is the time that we stop and see that the powers of evil are entrenched in the world. Evil authorities and and evil persons are having their way. A good creation is being ruined. Hearts made for love and light are imprisoned, crying out and empty.
There is war, terror, the loss of innocence and the curses of ignorance, poverty and death. The wise men of this age are propagating nonsense. Men and women made in God’s image are addicted to the worst the darkness has to offer. They think backwards and cannot find their way out of the dungeon. They have lost their will to live and love, and have settled for the cheapest and palest of imitations.
Advent’s darkness includes the failure of religion to bring any light to this fallen and dying world. Religion has become as empty as fool’s errand as can be imagined. The religious take themselves seriously, but the world hears the hollowness of it all.
In the Christian family itself, the prosperity gospel makes a mockery of the very savior it claims to proclaim. Western Christians plunge into the pagan celebration, spending thousands on themselves and their children. We spend enough on our lights to save thousands upon thousands of lives. But those lives are in the darkness of Advent’s waiting. Our “lights” are nothing more than an extension of that darkness. They have nothing to do with the true light that comes to the world.
The real center of Advent’s dark mood is that we need a savior. We who sing and go to church for musicals and eat too much and buy too much and justify the season by our strange measurements of suffering.
We light candles and wait because, after looking around and taking stock, there should be no doubt that we need a savior.
Ironically, after 2,000 years of offering our Savior to others, we- Christians- need one more than ever. When we mark ourselves has “having” Christ more than “needing” Christ, we miss the Spirit of the Advent season.
Despite the fact that the world needs a savior, those offering him and his story to the world look no more “saved” than anyone else. In fact, with an extra facade of religion or two, we seem to be in every bit as bad a shape as the world we call “lost.”
The mood of Advent is that we are all lost. Advent isn’t about the “saved” telling the “lost” to “get saved.” Advent is a light that dawns in all of our darknesses. Advent is bread for all of our hungers. Advent is the promise kept for all of us promise-breakers, betrayers and failures.
Can we find a way to celebrate Advent as those who NEED to be saved? As those who NEED a savior? Not as those who know for certain that someone else does?
Scripture says that we who had not received mercy have now received mercy. Those who were nobodies are now the people of God.
The key to Advent is not living as if we are the people of God and always have been. The key is to live as if we need a Savior, and he has come to us, found us, saved us and is there for everyone in the world.
The mood of Advent isn’t “come be religious like us.” It is “We are all waiting for our Savior to be born. Let us wait together. And when he comes, let us recognize him, together.”
When the day dawns, let us all receive him. We go to the manger and worship. We give to him our gifts. We take his light to the poor.
Until then, we are the poor, the weak, the blind, the lonely, the guilty and the desperate. We light candles because we who are in darkness are in need of a great light. We need a savior.
So we wait amidst the ruins, we protect the lights we hold in hope. We sing to one who is coming. We look and wonder. We pray for his star to take us, once again, to the miracle.