Excerpt from Meditations on the Birth of Jesus

Rec­om­mend­ed pas­sage for Lec­tio Div­ina: John 1:1 – 18.

Imag­ine a time before time, when real­i­ty is defined by light, col­or, and beau­ty. At the cen­ter is a tri­une Being who is the Artist and the Palette and the Stu­dio. With broad strokes the Orig­i­na­tor crafts a uni­verse of galax­ies and stars. Then a small­er brush is tak­en up and extrav­a­gant details paint­ed into a sin­gle gar­den plan­et, an emer­ald and sap­phire sphere flow­er­ing and flow­ing and teem­ing and trilling with life. It is breath­tak­ing, but there is no one around whose breath can be tak­en. It is time now for the Maker’s mag­num opus—a sculpt­ed self-por­trait ani­mat­ed by the breath of life. The mem­bers of the Trin­i­ty intend to share with these image-bear­ers the inti­mate fel­low­ship they them­selves have eter­nal­ly enjoyed. It is very good. 

But some­thing goes ter­ri­bly wrong. The crea­tures rebel. Dark­ness enters the world, a dark­ness which attempts to over­shad­ow the Life that is the light of all humankind.

The scene is bleak. A mind-set of scarci­ty has tak­en root which man­i­fests in cor­po­rate behav­ior. Peo­ple feel vul­ner­a­ble; they are afraid; they build walls to shut oth­ers out. God’s grand exper­i­ment is in decay. 

How will the Divine Three respond to what they see? What will they do?

The heart of God is an open wound of love,” says Richard Fos­ter. John illus­trates this insight. In a few short sen­tences, he takes us from the beau­ty of God’s cre­ation and hope for human­i­ty to the col­lapse of the dream. Thank­ful­ly, God choos­es not to crum­ple and toss aside the spoiled project. Instead, a res­cue plan is devised. The Trin­i­ty will offer human­i­ty a sec­ond chance, a way back. But the God-sized prob­lem will require a God-sized solu­tion. It will require God to absorb the dev­as­ta­tion we have released. The hem­or­rhage we have opened will require the life-blood of God’s own Son to close.

Lis­ten­ing in on this con­ver­sa­tion, I rec­og­nize myself as the sub­ject of their lov­ing con­sul­ta­tion. The real­iza­tion fills my heart with shame. I am part of the mess. In my thoughts, words, and deeds I have per­son­al­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the dis­so­lu­tion of God’s intend­ed har­mo­ny. I am the rea­son Jesus came. I am respon­si­ble for his suf­fer­ing and ter­ri­ble sac­ri­fice.

I throw myself upon the mer­cy of God in repen­tance, and hear John declare, From his full­ness we have all received, grace upon grace” (1:16).

What won­drous love is this, O my soul, O my soul.
What won­drous love is this, O my soul.
What won­drous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dread­ful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dread­ful curse for my soul.

Use your imag­i­na­tion to hear the voice of Jesus assur­ing you of his love, of his for­give­ness, his sal­va­tion.

Hear him invite you to be his dis­ci­ple and learn from him what a restored rela­tion­ship with God looks like.

A dis­ci­ple is a per­son who reads the words of Scrip­ture prayer­ful­ly, enter­ing the sto­ries, lis­ten­ing for God’s per­son­al word. A dis­ci­ple is a per­son who speaks often with God in prayer. A dis­ci­ple is a per­son who watch­es what Jesus did to main­tain a con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion with God and then does like­wise. A dis­ci­ple is a per­son who adopts the prac­tices of Jesus as his or her own. A dis­ci­ple fol­lows Jesus into the world, lav­ish­ing upon oth­ers the divine love we have so grate­ful­ly received. 

Hear the long­ing of God to be con­nect­ed to you. It is God’s invi­ta­tion to enter more deeply into lov­ing fel­low­ship with the Trin­i­ty. This is the life that you were designed to live. This is the gift of Christmas. 

Dear heav­en­ly Father, Lord Jesus Christ, indwelling Holy Spir­it — we are home­sick for you. Thank you for plant­i­ng in every human heart this desire and capac­i­ty to respond to you. You have pur­sued us with love. In send­ing Jesus to pro­vide sal­va­tion, you have lav­ished kind­ness upon us. You always call us home — feed­ing our hunger, sat­is­fy­ing our thirst. Thank you for draw­ing us into this fresh expe­ri­ence of Advent. Come to us anew, Lord Jesus; make your home in our will­ing hearts. Amen.

Visio Div­ina

Spend a peri­od of time in per­son­al reflec­tion on the art­work below. You may find these steps of Visio Div­ina helpful: 

  1. Request. Ask God to guide your thoughts and impres­sions through the Holy Spirit. 
  2. Gaze. Take in the paint­ing. Notice its struc­ture, the place­ment of the peo­ple and objects in the art­work, the shape and form, the use of light and shad­ow, the emp­ty spaces. What catch­es your attention? 
  3. Reflect on what you see. Pay atten­tion to your impres­sions, thoughts, and feel­ings. How does the image deep­en your under­stand­ing of the text? 
  4. Respond and Receive. Car­ry the details of the image with you through the com­ing week in the way you might car­ry a word from Lec­tio Div­ina with you. You may find that God is invit­ing you to pray as the appro­pri­ate response to what he has shown you. What is God’s invi­ta­tion? Receive what God has shown you and rest in a pos­ture of obe­di­ence and devotion. 

Dur­ing the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, the French painter Georges de La Tour paint­ed The Nativ­i­ty, also titled The New­born. The sleep­ing infant is just below the cen­ter point of the com­po­si­tion of three fig­ures: the infant, Mary, and Mary’s moth­er. A sin­gle can­dle shield­ed from our view lights the scene and focus­es our atten­tion on the infant Jesus, the light of the world who casts out the dark­ness. The white col­or of the swad­dling cloth sym­bol­izes puri­ty. Mary’s red dress pre­fig­ures the sac­ri­fi­cial death of Christ. The sim­plic­i­ty of form, col­or, shad­ow, and light work togeth­er to cre­ate an inti­mate and focused still­ness that helps us behold the child with rev­er­ent and hope­ful expectation.

Going Deeper

  1. Can you iden­ti­fy with the yearn­ing expressed in John’s descrip­tion of God’s response to the con­di­tion of our world? Try to cap­ture your feel­ings in a cre­ative way. Write a poem, make a work of art, talk to the Lord while you take a walk. 
  2. Describe your most recent expe­ri­ence of God water­ing your dried-up hope in an unex­pect­ed way. 
  3. Can you think of any­one in your life who needs some kind­ness? What is one spe­cif­ic way you can bless them this week? 

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Excerpt­ed from the Ren­o­varé resource Med­i­ta­tions on the Birth of Jesus, copy­right 2019 Miri­am Dixon and Mar­garet Camp­bell. Down­load it free or pur­chase phys­i­cal copies.