Advent Reflections: The Activity of Incarnation (Introduction)

Advent:
the short period
during which all
the years of groaning,
from that first fatal blow dealt
by selfish egocentricity to the
entirety of creation…

which turned off the Divine Light,
are compacted into one designated

thick period…

not “long”, but “longish”
and full of longing.

Thick.
Packed.
Full.
Stacked.
Designated…

to wait.
Wait.

WAIT
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Waiting for the most part is experienced as obdurate dull hunkering down and drinking from the cracked teacups of platitudes…ingesting such sops as “everything happens for a reason” and “this too shall pass”…yeah no…those things will not cut it, to get us thru this night, this absence of Divine Light that lays over all things, this utter darkness of the ego dictatorship.

Waiting…true waiting is become for us an empowered marking of events as they flow, infused by a knowing confidence that we wait for something certain and substantial…we wait for something coming and yet already here…we wait for the joy that veritably strains at the gates of birth to come forth!

We wait for someone…Someone…and every year that Someone comes fresh and new…and full of the very Presence that fits the absence of our existence like a Hand in a glove, like a key in a lock.
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The Ultimate Mystery of Existence is the Incarnation:  that joining of Creator and Creation into one full and harmonious miracle of Being…a joining that was planned and executed before even the foundations of the earth were laid, long ago sometime in eternity past when God in communion with God manifested the Eternal Sacred Heart in Passion Absolute and took up residence forever at the crux and core of all things, all rays, all paths and promises…that begotten presence which chose to be called Son climbed that tree and hung…hung…hangs…and hangs…

behind, beneath, above, within.

In every single cry of horror the cross is at the center.
In every single laugh of promise the cross is at the center.
In every single expression of wonder, every single nightmare of despair

the cross
at the center

And in the most central and deepest Intention is that Union, at the center of which the cross veritably pulsates!!
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It is the Mystery of the Incarnation…which is spoken of most plainly in the lowly caterpillar…or is it spoken of most darkly in the mystery of the Chrysalis? Wait…it is spoken of most clearly in the emergence of the butterfly.

We are that caterpillar, our lives a Holy Chrysalis of Dark Promise, and our becoming the butterfly whose wings we feel pulsating within our breast, that activity of Wonder which flutters in heaving convulsing implications that there must be Something!!

And so this morning, I wanna talk about that…the activity.

The activity of the Incarnation.

During Advent, we can look at the various “actors” in the Christmas Story to take our cues and understand our path forward, onward, higher/deeper, inward/outward…
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Part Two:  https://charissagrace.com/2016/12/19/advent-reflections-the-activity-of-incarnation-part-two/

Advent Reflections: The Activity of Incarnation (Part One)

Let us start with Mary.
She is the type for each and every one of us.

Each of us is a potential “Mother of God”,
a “blessed among all women”,
a chosen and fit vessel to carry the Child of Promise, the Messiah!

And Mama hovers, draws near, and watches…She waits too!

Did you know that God waits?
That every single day of time is God’s Advent waiting?

But back to Mother Mary…back to you…who if you will, can choose to “be” Mother Mary.  She said to God “Be it unto me according to Your Will”, and “my soul does indeed magnify God”!

OH!  The shockwaves of that declaration continue to ripple still!  And she did indeed receive the Child into her inmost self, and God took up residence there and joined Themself to humanity forever and always, and the butterfly was born…the God-human, the human-God…that indescribable uncanny union of the Divine and the human, which is spoken of as “the new creation”.

And Mary brought forth that Child…after a 9 month Advent of gestation…and that Child is the Deliverer of Creation.
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And this is the first phase of Advent Activity…and your first task.  Make room within your being for the Child to come and be implanted within…and bring forth that Incarnation of human/Divine life into this world in everything you do and say and think and are…you yourself in a very real sense “Mother” God…birth God…and it is your divine calling…no…your Divine RIGHT to birth God this Christmas, this year.

And what exactly would that look like, to bring forth God in your life?

Well…who is it that you want God to be for you?

That is who you must bring forth to the world.

It is the activity of Advent as an individual to birth and bring forth the Divine presence that only you can bring forth.

Oh Chosen Mary, blessed among all humans…search yourself, and make room…for the Incarnation within to come forth…
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Part Three:  https://charissagrace.com/2016/12/19/advent-reflections-the-activity-of-incarnation-part-three/

Advent Reflections: The Activity of Incarnation (Part Two)

Out in the cold, living in fields…Looking after animals, in the dark of night…

Lonely, stiff and cold, hungry, sleepless and miserable, surrounded by slumbering insensate beasts who couldn’t even begin to give a crap about anything except their own comfort and care…full bellies and security from wild beasts even if it meant being captive to their comfort and thus forever doomed to the dust-life…and never a dawning of even the beginnings of wondering what is Wonder…
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…it is there we meet the shepherds…who are aware…ALL too aware of these things.

I mean, c’mon!

The story tells us they were living out in the fields!
They had no homes.
They had no place to lay their head.

Except in the fields…with the beasts they cared for…and their own sense of wonder…wondering why the rich sat at ease in their cedar lined homes…wondering why their bellies were so empty when the refuse cans of the rich were so full of excess and waste…wondering why the stinking Romans had authority to take and break and dictate…

wondering why God was silent, absent, insensate, indifferent…
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and into that dark and lonely discomfiting despair came a Divine breaking in and breaking thru!!

In the midst of the darkest, most silent, most still, most absent of hope, most slumbering unaware time…came Heaven’s declaration that a Child had been born!  A Child had been Given!!

And His name was Wonderful!
His name was Counselor!
His name was Prince of Peace!

He was The Everlasting Father (yet an infant, meek and lowly)!
He was the Dayspring, the Bright and Morning Star!

Ahh…Morning Star…that Star that presages that night is drawing to a close, is ending.

And then the shepherds were given His core name, His Heart-Name…

Emmanuel.

God with us.  God with us.

God is with us.
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Go to the lowliest place, for that is where God chooses to appear!  Do you not realize that everything you wish God to be God IS in the revelation of Advent?  He chose the lowliest, the weakest, the most foolish…and in that place was born…in a feeding trough…a manger.

You do get that, don’t you?  The Bread from Heaven was laid in a manger (another name for trough from which cattle eat)?  And broken there for us…to “eat”…to “ingest” and have Him become one in essence with us?

The shepherds were told to go and see the baby, and then to go, and tell it on the mountains, tell it in the valleys, tell it everywhere there were hungry ears…that EMMANUEL HAD COME!

And they did.

Thus we see the second activity of Advent:  you are called, as a shepherd, as one who is aware (regardless of whether you are full of hope or full of despair…either one is the sign that you are an “aware one” and thus are chosen and blessed)…to go.

Go.

Tell it on the mountain.
Tell it in the valley.

And keep your eyes open to spot the Child!  You shall find Him in your neighbor…that “asshole” down the street that drives by you everyday, eyes fixed forward and exuding anger and frustration…that “airhead” in the cubicle next to you who is seemingly obsessed with her makeup and her dating life and fashion…
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You will find Him in that hopeless one next to you on the subway whose beautiful incredible skin is the wrong hue in this culture and whose shining incredible heart is so wounded and bound by the hatred of others…

You will find Him in the transwoman on the street just trying to live in her skin…in the homeless youth whose vision is more obscured by their hair than it is by their heart…

This is the activity of Advent for the shepherds:  find the Christ Child…in all His mangers…and proclaim that Child’s Name:

Emmanuel:  God is with us.
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Part Four:  https://charissagrace.com/2016/12/19/advent-reflections-the-activity-of-incarnation-part-four/

Advent Reflections: The Activity of Incarnation (Part Three)

In a foreign land, early.

Not early in the day…or even early in the year…

…but early in the Kairos of Significant Appointed Time!

And with Open Eyes…there waited Wise Men…who watched the skies, looking always upward for the arrival of…SOMETHING…they knew it not, what they sought, but they knew it had to be…because of the ache inside and the absence of something that caused the ache.

And then…there it was!  A star appeared in the sky, and in that quadrant that allus presaged SIGNIFICANCE!

And as they watched intently, behold!  It began to shift!  And as it shifted, so too within them something shifted, something began to be drawn…something…SomeONE…was tugging at them, pulling them.

And they left their homes, their places of comfort and familiarity…and began the road trip of all road trips, one that some scholars theorize lasted a couple years!
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Do you see this?

The incredible events of Advent that happened within the scope of 9 months for the principle actors and happened in one night for the shepherds…

…began as much as two years earlier for the Wise Men!

Talk about Active Waiting!  Their waiting involved a journey as well!

They passed thru many lands, and as they were men of means and wealth and influence, their entry into the various kingdoms and lands thru which they passed created a stir, even consternation!  But only because it was…odd…strange…unusual.

Until they got close…to the land for which such things held great import…that land governed by an evil and malevolent pile of egocentricity.  In “The Fox”, it was as if all of the original assertion of ego which extinguished The Beginning Light was concentrated and distilled…and this small, infected and diseased pus-ridden pimple of a human being who was so full of hate and fear that he even killed children in his attempt to maintain his power was jolted by the arrival of these men and the implications of the Star, and the shockwaves that were about to break.
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He was cunning, unctuous, viscous and smooth of speech like a cobra hypnotizing its prey…but the Wise Men were, well, wise to him…and they held him at bay with deference and deflection…and journeyed on after giving him the impression that they would indeed abide by his word when in his land…

and then they at last came to the place over which the Star pulsed and danced…

a baby…in a humble hovel stinking of beasts and despair…and their open eyes beheld Him.

They gave Him Gold…because they saw He was High and Royal, above all beings.
They gave Him Frankincense…because they also saw He was a Priest above all Priests.
They gave Him Myrrh…because they saw something hidden, from all others…until it was manifest…

…they saw that this Baby was simultaneously there, in that manger, and also at the crux of all, and hanging in agony, in Passion, and that His blood was the Spring that watered the very roots of the Universe…

and the Myrrh was burial spice…for by His death our life is.

They knelt…and worshipped…and were changed…by Emmanuel…the Incarnate One.

After awhile, they chose to depart…but did they obey “The Fox”?  Did they come under the rule of government?

No…they had been changed forever, and they now were serving the Agenda of heaven and they resisted the intention of the earthly…and they departed in “civil disobedience” in order to preserve the life of God With Us.

And that is the activity of Advent declared to you in the story of the Wise Men.
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Part Conclusion:  https://charissagrace.com/2016/12/19/advent-reflections-the-activity-of-advent-conclusion/

Advent Poem: The Season of Hunger

a pregnant mother waits…hopes…fears…
weary and unflagging, full of energy
and yet, so still and growing
larger with each day.

and inside her heart each quality increases…
hope and fear, expectant joy,
after all, it’s said she is expecting!
Expecting…and growing larger.

But with her hope grows hunger!
A hunger for the end of every minute waiting!
A hunger for her baby, to hold and cuddle quiet
A hunger to sing songs of love and comfort in the night.

Expecting…and growing hungry
for bread of life within her
also growing and expectant,
rising in the oven of human worth.

(other ovens hungry ate their fill
of offerings from monsters of the Breach
but this was not unnoticed by The Justice
nor beyond the scope of Mercy’s reach)tumblr_meim9rS2Ce1rguz4ho1_500

She hungers, swelling curved expectant in the night
The word becoming flesh and bone is served
a feast of human need and sorry fright
and love, devotion, faith, and truth and grace
and laughter there on each expectant face.

We…pregnant…waiting
in our weakness,
lonely lowly moments silent

They…hungry…ready
to come to us
Them with us
move in us
empty us
to satisfy us
dine with us
and hunger ever sharp and sated
all at once.

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Sticking Around After Dark

Good Morning Constance…

As you have experienced if you read here regularly, I like devotionals, if they are well written…if they are aware and on point.

Jill Carattini writes so well, and nearly always comforts my heart, challenges my mind, and encourages my soul with her unusual perspectives on topics typical and everyday.

The one for today speaks of the Incarnation, and how much more effective it is at communicating to us the depth of God’s care than just words spoken, true though they may be.  And she uses this phrase:  sticking around after dark.

Oooh!!

What a scintillating phrase!

It describes what life is like so well, as we encounter those who are  touched in some way by our plight in life, our circumstances or story, and are drawn in by its arc and narrative.

But they never stay over…after dark. They never move in, and walk with you during the day, and share the difficulty of being in the grip of the hungry dark on the black nights of the soul.

This happens to us, with life in general, but in life specifically as a transgender person, this is quite common.  I have often encountered people of good will, good intentions and kind hearts who are intrigued by the unique life and the strange (and I will add wonderful) state of being transgender.  They find themselves moved, inspired, or sometimes even filled with longing as they rub against my experience and what the world and its currents have on offer to me as transgender…

…but they don’t stick around after dark.

And why would they?  After all, the position they have been born in sets their feet into a world that is currently nearly inaccessible for us…what is like the wealth of Solomon himself is taken for granted by most cis-gender people.  People of good heart, of fine character and good will…but it never occurs to them this notion that they are day workers:  diligent in the field together with us…but returning home to the metaphorical creature comforts there.

Jill’s devotion speaks of this, and speaks of how God Themself has encountered this separation, and devised a strategy to overcome it, in the greatest Mystery of the universe…the Incarnation…where They became Emmanuel, “God with us”.

Constance, take a moment of reflection…cis, trans…white, black…rich, poor…whatever your station or assignment here in this creation:  do you stick around after dark?  Have you “moved in”?  Or when the night falls, do you “move on”, returning to walk in the day as a dispenser of charity?

We can be absent in the night…from our communities, from our family members…from ourselves, even…turning away from a complete identification, and thus being present while it is day.  I would propose that this is really a form of self love, and as such it is the practice and fulfillment of only half of the golden rule:  love your neighbor as yourself.  It is the loving of self in the proper way…but we are called, I believe, to a place of greater giving.  We are called to press on, press in, and love our neighbor from that good and healthy basis of self love.

When we stick around after dark, we form those identifications that allow us to  truly “do unto others as we want them to do unto us”.

One more thing:  if you are reading this, the onus is on you!  You cannot look around, and say no one has moved in here to stay after dark…after someone does, well then I will extend the walls of my dwelling to encompass someone else…then I will establish havens for the stranger, the alien, the orphan (and I am speaking here metaphorically as well as concretely).

No.  “…as you want them to do unto you” is your beacon of direction, your commission unto action.  You know what to do for others already!  Simply take your courage in hand, and shod your feet with your conviction and your determination…and go.  Inhabit that space inside the world of the ones you love…

…stick around after dark.

Love, Charissa Grace

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The Storyteller

Science fiction novelist Kurt Vonnegut once said of one of his most recurrent characters, “Trout was the only character I ever created who had enough imagination to suspect that he might be the creation of another human being. He had spoken of this possibility several times to his parakeet.

He had said, for instance, ‘Honest to God, Bill, the way things are going, all I can think of is that I’m a character in a book by somebody who wants to write about somebody who suffers all the time.”(1)

In this scene from the book Breakfast of Champions, Kilgore Trout’s haunting suspicion is unveiled before him. Sitting content at a bar, Kilgore is suddenly overwhelmed by someone or something that has entered the room. Beginning to sweat, he becomes uncomfortably aware of a presence far greater than himself.

The author himself, Kurt Vonnegut, has stepped beyond the role of narrator and into the book itself. The effect is as bizarre for Kilgore as it is for the readers. When the author of the book steps into the novel, fiction is lost within a higher reality, and Kilgore senses the world as he knows it collapsing.

In fact, this was the author’s intent. Vonnegut has placed himself in Kilgore’s world for no other reason than to explain the meaninglessness of Kilgore’s life. He came to explain to Kilgore face to face that the very tiresome life he has led was, in fact, all due to the pen and whims of an author who made it all up for his own sake.

In this twisted ending, no doubt illustrative of Vonnegut’s own humanism, Kilgore is forced to conclude that apart from the imagination of the author he does not exist. Ironically, he also must come to terms with the fact that it is because of the author that his very existence has been ridiculous.

The gospel writers tell a story that is perhaps as fantastic as Vonnegut’s tale, though one with consequences in stark contrast. The Gospel of John, too, begins with a story that is interrupted by the presence of the author: 

“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”

As Eugene Peterson translates, “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” But in this story, the presence of the author is not our demise but our inherent good.

Working in an urban ministry setting many years ago, I saw a small glimpse of the strange effects of being spiritually present—an incomparable cry to the Incarnation itself, but a lesson in the sacredness of place nonetheless.

During the first year, I lived in an apartment just outside the city. But during the second year I was able to move into the neighborhood where many of the children involved in our ministry lived. The difference was profound.

Teenagers that previously had held me at arms length came closer. Kids continually came to my door to ask if I could play. We occupied the same space, and it was not unusual for them to mention it. One girl told me that she knew I was real because I stayed around after dark. In her eyes I was now interested in her life in a way she could physically grasp: a hand to clasp on the way home, a next-door neighbor to sit with on the porch, a heart that knew both the joys and fears of the city.

Stepping into this neighborhood changed everything for all of us.

How much more the author of grace and mystery has stepped into our world to change our lives. John relays as an eyewitness that Jesus Christ, the Word in flesh, came to live beside us in body and blood. Eternity stepped into time and brought with it grace and truth.

The author of life moved into his creation, declaring it good all over again, bringing the presence of redemption, proclaiming again the meaning of life. It is a story that turns the mind inside out with questions of existence and reality. But in intense contrast to Kilgore’s conclusions of purposelessness, we are strangely called to be a greater part of the storyline.

In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought perhaps it involved a magician. And this pointed a profound emotion always present and sub-conscious; that this world of ours has a purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person.”(3) The vicarious humanity of the Son of God is the nearness of a storyteller who hopes we might know him, and grasp that we are known. His presence is our very overwhelming good.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. 

(1) Kurt Vonegut, Breakfast of Champions (New York: Random House, 2006), 246.
(2) John 1:1-3,14.
(3) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), 110.

 

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On the Incarnation (by Jill Carattini)

Incarnate

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola is one of the world’s largest maximum-security prisons, an eighteen-thousand acre habitat to people who have committed horrible crimes. It houses roughly five thousand inmates, more than half of which are serving life sentences. Death looms large at Angola; ninety-four percent of inmates who enter are expected to die while incarcerated. The fear of dying alone in prison, coupled with the reality that for many inmates their first encounter with death was committing murder, makes death a weighted subject, often locked up in anger, guilt, and dread.

 

For a few, however, the Angola Hospice volunteer program has drastically changed this. In 1998, equipped with a variety of staff trustees and inmate volunteers, the LSP hospice opened its doors to its first terminally ill inmate. Today it is recognized as one of the best programs of its kind. Giving inmate volunteers a role in the creation of the hospice and in the primary care during the dying process, inmates find themselves in the position to tangibly affect the lives of others by being present, by giving a hand, by offering dignity to the dying. Reckoning with death as a fate that awaits all of humanity as they care for dying friends and strangers, the men often gradually let go of hardened demeanors. As one man notes, “I’ve seen guys that used to run around Angola, and want to fight and drug up, actually cry and be heartbroken over the patient.”(1) Another describes being present in the lives of the dying and how much this takes from the living. “But it puts a lot in you,” he adds. A third inmate describes how caring for strangers on the brink of death has put an end to his lifelong anger and helped him to confront his guilt with honesty.

 

It may seem for some an odd story as a means of examining the story of Christmas, but in some ways it is the only story to ever truly introduce the story of Christmas: broken, guilty souls longing for someone to be present. As martyred archbishop Oscar Romero once said, it is only the poor and hungry, those most aware they need someone to come on their behalf, who can celebrate Christmas. For the men at Angola who stare death in the eyes and realize the tender importance of presence, for the child whose mother left and whose father was never there, for the melancholic soul that laments the evils of a fallen world, the Incarnation is the only story that touches every pain, every lost hope, every ounce of our guilt, every joy that ever matters. Where other creeds fail, Christmas, in essence, is about coming poor and weary, guilty and famished to the very scene in history where God reached down and touched the world by stepping into it.

 

The Incarnation is hard to dismiss out of hand because it so radically comes near our needs. Into the world of living and dying the arrival of Christ as a child turns fears of isolation, weakness, and condemnation on their heads. C.S. Lewis describes the doctrine of the Incarnation as a story that gets under our skin unlike any other creed, religion, or theory. “[The Incarnation] digs beneath the surface, works through the rest of our knowledge by unexpected channels, harmonises best with our deepest apprehensions… and undermines our superficial opinions. It has little to say to the man who is still certain that everything is going to the dogs, or that everything is getting better and better, or that everything is God, or that everything is electricity. Its hour comes when these wholesale creeds have begun to fail us.”(2) Standing over the precipices of the things that matter, nothing matters more than that there is a loving, forgiving, eager God who draws near.

 

The great hope of the Incarnation is that God comes for us. God is aware and Christ is present, having come in flesh, and it changes everything. “[I]f accepted,” writes Lewis, “[the Incarnation] illuminates and orders all other phenomena, explains both our laughter and our logic, our fear of the dead and our knowledge that it is somehow good to die,…[and] covers what multitudes of separate theories will hardly cover for us if this is rejected.”(3) The coming of Christ as an infant in Bethlehem puts flesh on humanity’s worth and puts God in humanity’s weakness. To the captive, there is no other freedom.

 

 

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

(1) Stephen Kiernan, Last Rights (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2006), 274.
(2) C.S. Lewis, The Complete C.S. Lewis (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 282.
(3) Ibid.