A HEARTSIDE ADVENT & CHRISTMAS REFLECTION FROM 2001
“In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Thus begins John’s Gospel and in the fourteenth verse of the first chapter he unveils the mystery of the Incarnation in its full glory. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”.
As we enter Advent, our time of preparation for the Celebration of Christmas, how do those scripture verses penned over two thousand years ago impact our Heartside community and a country, indeed a world, plunged into horror and uncertainty following the events of September 11?
Our belief is we are made in the image of God. Peter Chrysologus asked and answered, “Why then are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonor when God honors you?...It was for you that light dispelled the overshadowing gloom, for your sake was the night regulated and the day measured, and for you were the heavens embellished with the varying brilliance of the sun, the moon and the stars…You were made in God’s image that you might in your person make the invisible Creator present on earth…"
Ok, God is in everyone. Then why is the world so screwed up? It is and it isn’t and God is! Really confused? For the answers to the mystery of the Incarnation we need only look around us and sometimes in us.
How many times have the neighbors of Heartside rallied to the aid of each other, and more often than not, complete strangers? I have witnessed the “Word made Flesh” incarnate in our neighbors as they constantly protect the weak, welcome the different, defend the oppressed, and give whatever they sometimes have to others in need. Our Benevolent Fund is often replenished with dollars and dimes at a time from those who benefited from the generosity of neighbors and want to return the kindness they received by giving to others.
On a national level we witnessed the “Word made Flesh” incarnate through the carnage of the Towers and the actions of individuals like Abe Zelmanowitz who refused to allow a quadriplegic friend to die alone forfeiting his own life, recovering alcoholic Father Mike Judge who perished while ministering to a fallen firefighter, the heroes of Flight 93 whose actions saved the United States Capitol, and the countless ordinary people who lived out the noble conclusion of the Incarnation by showing that there is no greater love than giving your life for your friends, thereby joining their sufferings to Christ and participating in the Mystery of Redemption.
And lest we fall victims to the normal emotions of righteous indignation and vengeance, let’s reflect on the Restorative Justice we try to practice at Heartside. Christ came and died for all, no one is ever beyond God’s mercy.
The story of Saul persecuting Stephen shows the power of love over violence as illustrated in a sermon by Fulgentius of Ruspe, “And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven…Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle…love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him…Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition…It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered a multitude of his sins, it was love that won for both the kingdom of heaven…Love is the source of all good things…One who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides, protects, and brings you to your journey’s end.”
As we remember the Child born in a manager, we should reflect on why he is called Immanuel. It means God With Us. Our faith, our hope and our love incarnate in each one of us. The greatest gift of all that we share with everyone. For “the Word was made Flesh and DWELLS amongst us!" Love triumphs! Merry Christmas!