Friday, December 30, 2011

pondering a time to embrace

I've read many books on the topic of homosexuality and Christianity over the past few years.  While a couple of the real-life accounts have been helpful in that they provide context and story, the rest have been - for the most part - lacking, in my opinion.  I've been neither impressed nor convinced by them.  Not that I need a book to convince me, but I admit I'm the type of person who needs alignment in my life.  My conscience/the Spirit may lead me toward a certain persuasion but I also need to understand, at least on some level, how that fits into the big picture of my own personal religion/faith/philosophy.  And so I've been reading... a lot.

This is the first book that satisfied.  It's heady, it's a bit long, and it's excellent.  It's thorough.  It's incredibly well researched - the last 25% of the book is notes and I read all those, too!

In my state of North Carolina, we will be asked to vote on an amendment in May.  I'm convinced this amendment is a huge mistake.  In addition to prohibiting same-sex marriage, as state statute already does, the Amendment would:

  • prohibit North Carolina from passing civil unions;
  • bar the state from instituting domestic partnership rights;
  • strip the domestic partner insurance benefits currently offered to employees by a number of local governments, including Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, and Mecklenburg and Orange Counties.
In addition, courts could interpret the language of the Amendment to ban any rights to state's hundreds of thousands of unmarried couples—both same and opposite-gender. This would:
  • invalidate domestic violence protections for all unmarried partners;
  • undercut existing child custody and visitation rights that are designed to protect the best interests of children;
  • prevent the state from giving committed couples rights to allow them to order their relationships, including threatening their ability to determine the disposition of their deceased partner's remains; to make medical decisions if their partner is incapacitated; and to allow second-parent adoptions in order to ensure that both partners have a legal tie to, and financial responsibilities for, the children they are raising.
  • invalidate trusts, wills, and end-of-life directives by one partner in favor of the other.
As we welcome a new year, I encourage my fellow North Carolinians to take on a personal challenge.  Between now and May, resolute to do two things:
  1. Read this book - educate yourself on both the history and theology surrounding this issue.  
  2. More importantly - befriend a family where two moms or two dads are raising children (or have raised now adult children). Spend time with them.   Worship with them.  Serve alongside them. 
After you've done those two things, be sure to vote your conscience in May.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

pondering after midnight

It's dangerous to blog at midnight (or after).  It's kind of like drunk texting.  Who knows what you'll be ballsy enough to say!  (like that right there)

I've been to three Christmas Eve services in the past 24 hours. No, I'm not trying to get extra helpings of Jesus.  Our lives have just stretched and spread and it's good.  Each one brought it's moments of awe, inspiration, and sometimes laughter.

Like last night, our friends at The Inclusion Community invited us to the Davidson United Methodist Chapel for Christmas Eve-Eve.  Just as the beautiful space began to glow with candle-light and lovely refrains of Silent Night filled the air ... all serenity was broken by a sudden shriek from Sarah, who had managed to burn herself with hot wax.  Sarah makes sure everyone knows when something hurts, too.  Awesome.

Or this afternoon, after enjoying the Christmas Eve service at Lake Forest Church, our home church for many years and where we caught up with many friends, Mary was in charge of giving homemade cinnamon ornaments to everyone on the ministry and service teams.  Concerned that the sweet smelling ornaments would be mistaken for cookies, Mary was all business, saying to every single person,

"Merry Christmas - don't eat it.
Merry Christmas - don't eat it...."

There were moving moments too.  Like hearing my kids sing loudly and proudly the songs we've sung together in the privacy of our home (and being tickled that they knew when Kyle screwed up the words to Away in a Manger, ha!).  Or being moved to tears as I caught Pastor Mike out of the corner of my eye, over there on the front row in his jeans, with one hand raised high in praise during Joy to the World.  Or when, tonight, I knelt to receive communion at midnight (or something close to it) while listening to It Came Upon A Midnight Clear being sung.  Maybe it was just that I was weary from the late hour, I don't know, but I was moved as I've not been in some time as I heard this verse,

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way
with painful steps and slow,
look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
and hear the angels sing!
This year has been (and still is) made up of many slow painful steps.  It was good to rest tonight - to just stay knelt at the altar -  so long that Pastor Nancy offered me communion twice ;)  I wasn't given a wonder or a sign, but I was challenged to remain in this place of rest - not jump ahead to the next thing on my mind now that advent is over, or rush to make decisions where uncertainty remains - but instead to just stop - be still - and hear the angels sing for a while.

"Peace on the earth, good will to men,
from heaven's all-gracious King."
The world in solemn stillness lay,
to hear the angels sing.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

pondering with dear friends: lost in my mind...

I couldn't say it better myself so I won't even try. We love these people. We love what they say and how they say it.  Ponder their words with us.  This is Truth.
lewis family christmas video 2011 from the redesign company on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

pondering advent with Bonhoeffer and Bono

Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate goes the longing for the final Advent, where it says: "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent--that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices in the words of the angels: "On earth peace to those on whom God's favor rests." Learn to wait.~Bonhoeffer
I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one, bleed into one
Well yes, I'm still running
You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame, of my shame
You know I believe it!!~Bono

Monday, December 19, 2011

pondering our anniversary and advent's fourth candle

To my daughter this morning, "Guess what we did last night!"


"Well, we went out to a restaurant for dinner, then Daddy said we had to stop by a friend's house and pick something up. When we got there a bunch of our very favorite friends were there!  It was a surprise party!  Daddy had planned the whole thing!"

She crinkled her nose a bit.  "A surprise party for your anniversary? Isn't that kinda weird? Aren't you supposed to get a present?"

"But Daddy knew this would make me the most happy, happier than any present, so that's what he did."

She smiled, "Oh! So he DID give you a present!"


It's true.  Last night was wonderful. Mostly because my husband knows me. He gets me. He values me and what I value.  Priceless.

Yesterday was the fourth Sunday of advent. If we'd gathered round our wreath last night, we'd have lit the Love candle.

At some point during the evening, it hit me - we did light the Love candle last night.  We SO did.

Love shall be our token;
love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
love for plea and gift and sign.

pondering the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice

"Mom! Mom! Sarah is going to throw away my Link costume!" Frantic words from my 11 year old, concerning his 9 year old sister's plan for his most prized possession.

Enter Sarah, as if on cue, carrying said costume in her arms with a look of angry determination on her face.  Tossing said costume in the garbage was the greatest weapon she could come up with.

I didn't have to ask why.

"Aaron says the Bible was written at the first Christmas and it WASN'T! It was NOT written yet, AIR-RUN! It hadn't even HAPPENED yet!"

"I said most of the Bible was written!  The Old Testament stuff was all written down.  That IS most of the Bible!  Have you ever looked at the Bible???"

That's when I heard myself say these words:

"I did not teach you the Bible so you could fight and hurt one another over who is right or wrong about this or that.  I taught you the Bible so that you will love one another!"

I didn't add "dammit" - my facial expression said it for me.

Merry bleeping Christmas!

Earlier this morning I'd read these words from Evelyn Underhill,

...human nature is like a stable inhabited by the ox of passion and the ass of prejudice; animals which take up a lot of room and which I suppose most of us are feeding on in the quiet.  And it is there between them, pushing them out, that Christ must be born and in their very manger He must be laid - and they will be the first to fall on their knees before Him. Sometimes Christians seem far nearer to those animals than to Christ in His simple poverty, self-abandoned to God.

My kids need to be reminded of this.
I need to be reminded of this.

Lord, have mercy!

And in despair I bowed my head:  
'There is no peace on earth, ' I said  
'For hate is strong, and mocks the song 
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'  
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:  
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;  
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,  
With peace on earth, good will to men.' 
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

pondering stuff Jesus said

I've been thinking a lot lately about stuff Jesus said, and how much of it has taken on entirely new meaning for me.  

For example, 
Mark 8:38  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. NIV
or as Eugene Peterson paraphrased it,

If any of you are embarrassed over me and the way I'm leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you'll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when he arrives in all the splendor of God, his Father, with an army of the holy angels. The Message

Now, that passage is used to justify what I can only refer to as completely asinine behavior.  "I'm not ashamed of Jesus and to prove it I will wear my Christian status louder and prouder than a college football fan at a bowl game."

But what if we rethink what it means to not be ashamed of Jesus and His words.  I mean, what were His words any way?  Let's start with the words He spoke literally in the same breath as those above, just prior,

Mark 8:34-35 Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 

Some of His other words went like this...

John 13:12-14  When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.
Mark 9:33-35  And when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you discussing on the way?" But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all." 
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 
I John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 

So that gets me to thinking, maybe being ashamed of Jesus and His words means being too embarrassed to live exactly the way He did.  Right?  It's hard deny yourself.  It's degrading to wash other people's feet, literally or figuratively.  It's painful to give up what is life-giving for you, in order that someone else may experience what is life-giving for them.  It's embarrassing, allowing yourself to be degraded.  It's sometimes humiliating to forgive. It's shameful to be accused by religious leaders and teachers, to have them click their tongues as they exclude you.  But it's the life we're called to.  

Which leads me to conclude that following Jesus has absolutely nothing to do with being in the majority or rooting for the winning team. Nothing.

Something else Jesus said that I think we just get all kinds of wrong is,
Matthew 10:37 Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

I've often heard this verse used to justify families disowning a member (or friends un-friending a friend) whose life does not live up to their Godly standards.  Maybe that person doesn't share their Christian faith, or maybe they've converted to a different (and therefore wrong) denomination.  Maybe they've embraced a "false doctrine".  Maybe they're gay, or (worse?) they're straight, but they embrace gay people.  To support them would be to love them more than we love Christ, right?  So one must speak up - one is required to voice disapproval, to avoid all appearances of condoning evil.  And so we've been told.

Well, the most striking thing I see about this verse is its context.  Once again, here's what we find Jesus saying in the exact same breath.  Sound familiar?  

Matthew 10:38-39 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Taking up a cross... following Jesus... losing our very life.  I hear sacrifice.  I hear giving up.  I hear humbling.  I hear lowering oneself to another's level, not building up walls of self righteous separation.

So what did He mean?  I have some thoughts on that.  Earlier Jesus had told His disciples this,

Mark 10:16-17 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 

See, the disciples had a message to share - a message of freedom, of good news!  And those in power - both political and religious - were not going to like this message one bit.  Not. One. Bit.  What they had to say went against all the established teaching of the day.  It broke rules.  It probably spat in the faces of people who they loved and had loved them.  It turned not only the world, but their worlds, upside down.  

Jesus' disciples had to trust what had been revealed to them - what they believed to be Truth -  despite a plethora of voices telling them otherwise.  Their conviction had to withstand not only the wagging, accusing tongues of naysayers, but also the concerned entreaties of people who genuinely cared and feared for them.  Turning a deaf ear to the former is much easier than ignoring the latter.  

I believe that might be what Jesus what getting at,  and - at least for me - it makes a world of difference.  Because the first interpretation has to do with obeying the rules, even if it means breaking relationship.  But the second has to do with following Jesus, even if it means breaking the rules.  And since we find Him in the face of the other, following Him almost always involves opening ourselves up to relationships.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

pondering ... with red eyes

I created this video because I feel that this song expresses the heart of advent.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

pondering what it means to be virgin

excerpts of To Be Virgin, by Loretta Ross-Gotta
from Watch For the Light - Readings for Advent and Christmas

what matters in the deeper experience of contemplation is not the doing and accomplishing. what matters is relationship, the being with. we create holy ground and give birth to christ in our time not by doing but by believing and by loving the mysterious infinite one who stirs within. this requires trust that something of great and saving importance is growing and kicking its heels in you.

the angel summoned mary, betrothed to joseph, from the rather safe place of conventional wisdom to a realm where few of the old rules would make much sense. she entered that unknown called "virgin territory". she was on her own there. no one else could judge for her the validity of her experience.

she can measure her reality against scripture, the teachings of her tradition, her reason and intellect, and the counsel of wise friends. but finally it is up to her. the redemption of the creation is resting on the consent - the choice of this mortal woman to believe fearlessly that what she is experiencing is true. and to claim and live out that truth....

god asks us to give away everything of ourselves. the gift of greatest efficacy and power that we can offer god and creation is not our skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions. the wise men had their gold, frankincense, and myrrh... mary offered only space, love, belief.

be a womb. be a dwelling for god.

pondering fruit

This is the most powerful compliment I've ever - and I dare say, will ever - receive.  Humbled, and grateful for the people in my life who do love me unconditionally.

You know the Bible allows us to “judge a tree by the fruit that it bears” 
and when I look at your kids, I see great fruit. 
Our “fruit” is not always our children…
but your kids are all I have to go on and I love them. 

We will probably go to our graves disagreeing on the whole homosexuality thing 
but I am OK with that. 
That doesn’t change my love for you…
so whether I agree or disagree with what you write will not change how I feel.  
And that I KNOW, 
even before I read it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

pondering incarnation

I've been called out by The Screaming Kettle.  I laughed out loud, nodding in agreement at number one, then raised my hand "guilty as charged" (while still laughing) at number 2.... but in all seriousness, I'm taking up their challenge.  Here it goes.

Incarnation.  Google dictionary defines it as,
  1. A person who embodies in the flesh a deity, spirit, or abstract quality.
  1. (in Christian theology) The embodiment of God the Son in human flesh as Jesus Christ.
Christmas is about THE incarnation.  Madeleine L'Engle writes so beautifully about that here (shared from my friend Tracy).  And so yes, I ponder that ... who couldn't ponder that?  Mary had experienced it all first hand and she pondered it. The Incarnation. Amazing.

But I believe incarnation continues.  Just as mysterious, just as ponder-worthy as God-Himself-in-Mary's-womb, the infinite God, our Maker, indwells us, is our very Spirit.  The seeds of Truth planted there, the convictions of Love, the callings and challenges, are all meant to be incarnated - fleshed out - in very real, physical, human ways.  To say "I believe" means nothing if there's no incarnation (James is ringing in my ears right now).

So I see the advent season and its culmination of Christmas as an invitation for us to participate more fully in this incarnated life, as truly incarnational people.


Well, I can't tell you that and neither can anyone else.  Incarnation means to embody what is already real.  What is real within you?  What Truths has the Spirit shown you, what changes has Wisdom wrought in your thinking, about which paths has She whispered, "Take that one".

Three years ago, incarnational living meant boarding a plane to Ukraine to go put flesh on our "belief" that orphans should be welcomed into families.  Specifically, five-year-old-lanky-long-legged-big- grinned-loud-squealy-one-more-sloppy-wet-kiss-please flesh ... named Mary.

This year our family is living a new advent-ure (did you like that? wink)  We are spending this season incarnating something that began with a twinge of conscience, then formed into thought, conviction, finally actual conversation... but never fully incarnation.  Until now.

We have chosen to spend this season worshipping with a faith community that is completely (and specifically) unlike our "own", starting with the first Sunday of advent (a week from yesterday) and  through Christmas Eve. What happens after Christmas is completely open-ended, as far as we are concerned.

How is this a big deal?  To you it may not be.  To us, it is.  (this is our incarnation, go find your own!)  Yes, it is a very big deal.  We have spent 9 years highly involved in our current church.  We know and love so many people there, it is a familiar and wonderful place for us.  Now, for five weeks, we are loading up our four children and driving into the city.  We walk up brick steps to a small sanctuary highly reminiscent of the small Baptist church we were married in almost 18 years ago.  Only, it's not Baptist - as both my husband and I were raised.  And it's not Presbyterian - as we later came to join.  It's also not "modern", which is the only church our children have ever known - big screens and a full band and lights.  It's a small, simple Lutheran church.

As we enter, there is a basin of holy water that we honestly don't know what we're supposed to do with, but I like that it's there.  Everyone who greets us has a felt warmth about them.  There are more gray heads than at our church, something else I like a great deal, but there are also wee ones who are always fun to see.  The children are present for about 2/3 of the liturgy - only our youngest is trotted off for a brief "children's church" mid-service, then returns following the sermon and prayer for communion and more singing.

Speaking of the liturgy ... oh, the liturgy, it's so beautiful.  And it makes so much sense!  Our first week I told the children, "Follow along in your bulletin now (is it called a bulletin? program? can't remember...anyway!) We have to pay attention - this is like a script and we have lines to say!  All the dark bold words, those are ours!"  They ate this up.  Even during the intercessory prayer, the one praying pauses at increments to say, "Hear us Oh Lord" to which we reply, "Your mercy is great".  It keeps us all focused on what's being said and done, and I love it.

We sing - a LOT. I've decided, from the limited experiences I've had with Lutheran liturgy, that it must be a requirement for any Lutheran pastor to be able to SING.  Much of what Pastor Nancy says/does is in song, and we love that, too.  I also love that we use hymnals, but there's only a piano, no other instruments, which is a big change indeed.

Communion is held every week - every service - and is open to all.  Our second week there I watched the pastor address each one of us, including each one of our children, correctly by name as she looked them in the eye and offered the body and blood, broken for them.  That touched me.  She also remembered to have a gluten free wafer, just for me.

The sharing of the peace is another highlight for us all.  In our church, when they say, "Greet those around you" it's enough time to say hello to one or two folks nearby, then the service moves on.  Not here.  Literally every person in the sanctuary is going to make an effort to share God's peace with you.  It takes quite a while and it's beautiful!  And the children love it because they don't have to stand awkwardly wondering what they are supposed to say.  What must sound very formulaic and stiff is actually the complete opposite - it's free and warm and... well, it's just beautiful. "God's peace be with you."  "And also with you."  Love that.

All that I've described is part of the adventure, but I haven't yet gotten to the truly incarnation-al motivation behind it.  This church has one more defining characteristic, one that clearly differentiates it from our own.  I'll let their website speak for itself,

At Holy Trinity, we believe being supportive of LGBT persons is a given for followers of Jesus Christ. We don’t talk about homosexuality as a sin, because we don’t believe it is one. We don’t accept gay people as long as they keep quiet about who they are (as in “don’t ask/don’t tell”). We don’t try to convert gay people to become straight. (Just as we don’t try to convert straight people to become gay.) We don’t welcome LGBT people into our community with any restrictions on their level of participation. We support all people in their loving relationships and encourage commitment to those relationships, whether they are straight or gay. We celebrate sexual orientation as a God-given gift, no matter what that orientation may be. We encourage all people to live authentically and fully as the people God created them to be. You can read Pastor Nancy’s personal statement here: Where I've Landed on Homosexuality and Why.

This is where incarnation comes in.  We've been pondering over "the issue of homosexuality", we've been talking about "gay people", but we hadn't actually put flesh to any of that.  We hadn't sat our own family down in a pew behind a family with two dads and three beautiful children (who appear to have been adopted from central America).  We hadn't yet shared God's peace with a lesbian couple who are gushing over their new baby girl, who has a giant organza bow wrapped around her bald head.  We hadn't yet kneeled to receive communion alongside elderly men and women who watched most of their friends leave their long beloved faith community because the church chose to adopt the above statement.  They are straight - it would have been easy to leave too; yet, conviction led them to stay.  Doing these things - this is incarnation for us, right now.

Is this permanent?  That's not on the table right now.  We've agreed to treat this as an advent-ure (that was too good not to use twice).  A beautiful adventure.  A scary adventure.  One not without its consequences.  Yet, an adventure that, so far, leaves me feeling more alive ... like I'm embodying my truth in a fresh, authentic way.  Actually fleshing that out.


There's my attempt at a Christmas blog post ...  I hope The Screaming Kettle approves.  I welcome feedback - questions, concerns ... I know this is a highly sensitive and potentially divisive topic.  My only request is that you season it with Love.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

pondering advent with Karl Rahner

  • I am reading (and very much enjoiying) Watch for the Light ~ Readings for Advent and Christmas.  This was today's reflection.  Oh so very good.... probably the first advent reflection I've ever read that truly makes me say, 
    "Yes, ...that."

    The Divine Dawning 
    Karl Rahner

    Light of lights! All gloom dispelling,Thou didst come to make thy dwellingHere within our world of sight.Lord, in pity and in power,Thou didst in our darkest hourRend the clouds and show thy light.Praise to thee in earth and heavenNow and evermore be given,Christ, who art our sun and shield.Lord, for us thy life thou gavest,Those who trust in thee thou savest,All thy mercy stands revealed.St. Thomas Aquinas       

    Every year we celebrate the holy season of Advent, O God. Every year we pray those beautiful prayers of longing and waiting, and sing those lovely songs of hope and promise. Every year we roll up all our needs and yearnings and faithful expectation into one word: "Come!"
    And yet, what a strange prayer this is! After all, you have already come and pitched your tent among us. You have already shared our life with its little joys, its long days of tedious routine, its bitter end. Could we invite you to anything more than this with our "Come"? Could you approach any nearer to us than you did when you became the "Son of Man," when you adopted our ordinary little ways so thoroughly that it's almost hard for us to distinguish you from the rest of our fellow men?
    In spite of all this we still pray: "Come." And this word issues as much from the depth of our hearts as it did long ago from the hearts of our forefathers, the kings and prophets who saw your day still far off in the distance, and fervently blessed its coming. Is it true, then, that we only "celebrate" this season, or is it still really Advent?
    Are you the eternal Advent? Are you he who is always still to come, but never arrives in such a way as to fulfill our expectations? Are you the infinitely distant One, who can never be reached?
    Are you only the distant horizon surrounding the world of our deeds and sufferings, the horizon which, no matter where we roam, is always just as far away? Are you only the eternal Today, containing within itself all time and all change, equally near to everything, and thus also equally distant?
    When our bleeding feet have apparently covered a part of the distance to your eternity, don't you always retreat twice as far away from us, into the immense reaches filled only by your infinite being? Has humanity drawn the least bit closer to you in the thousands and thousands of years that have elapsed since it boldly began its most exciting and fearsome adventure, the search for you?
    Have I come any nearer to you in the course of my life, or doesn't all the ground I have won only make my cup all the more bitter because the distance to you is still infinite? Must we remain ever far from you, O God of immensity, because you are ever near to us, and therefore have no need of "coming" to us? Is it because there is no place in our world to which you must first "find your way"?
    You tell me that you have really already come, that your name is Jesus, Son of Mary, and that I know in what place and at what time I can find you. That's all true, of course, Lord - but forgive me if I say that this coming of yours seems to me more like a going, more like a departure than an arrival.
    You have clothed yourself in the form of a slave. You, the hidden God, have been found as one of us. You have quietly and inconspicuously taken your place in our ranks and marched along with us. You have walked with us, even though we are beings who are never coming, but rather always going, since any goal we reach has only one purpose: to point beyond itself and lead us to the last goal, our end.
    And thus we still cry: "Come! Come to us, you who never pass away, you whose day has no evening, whose reality knows no end! Come to us, because our march is only a procession to the grave." Despairing of ourselves, we call upon you - then most of all, when, in composure and quiet resignation, we bring ourselves to accept our finiteness.
    You promised that you would come, and actually made good your promise. But how, O Lord, how did you come? You did it by taking a human life as your own. You became like us in everything: born of a woman, you suffered under Pontius Pilate, were crucified, died, and were buried. And thus you took up again the very thing we wanted to discard. You began what we thought would end with your coming: our poor human kind of life, which is sheer frailty, finiteness, and death.
    Contrary to all our fond hopes, you seized upon precisely this kind of human life and made it your own. And you did this not in order to change or abolish it, not so that you could visibly and tangibly transform it, not to divinize it. You didn't even fill it to overflowing with the kind of goods that men are able to wrest from the small, rocky acre of their temporal life, and which they laboriously store away as their meager provision for eternity.
    No, you took upon yourself our kind of life, just as it is. You let it slip away from you, just as ours vanishes from us. You held on to it carefully, so that not a single drop of its torments would be spilled. You hoarded its every fleeting moment, so you could suffer through it all, right to the bitter end.
    You too felt the inexorable wheel of blind, brute nature rolling over your life, while the clear-seeing eye of human malice looked on in cruel satisfaction. And when your humanity glanced upwards to the One who, in purest truth and deepest love, is called "Father," it too caught sight of the God whose ways are unfathomable and whose judgments are incomprehensible, who hands us the chalice or lets it pass, all according to his own holy will. You too learned in the hard school of suffering that no "why" will ever ferret out the secret of that will, which could have done otherwise, and yet chose to do something we would never understand.
    You were supposed to come to redeem us from ourselves, and yet you, who alone are absolutely free and unbounded, were "made," even as we are. Of course, I know that you remained what you always were, but still, didn't our mortality make you shudder, you the Immortal God? Didn't you, the broad and limitless Being, shrink back in horror from our narrowness? Weren't you, absolute Truth, revolted at our pretense?
    Didn't you nail yourself to the cross of creation, when you took as your own life something which you had drawn out of nothing, when you assumed as your very own the darkness that you had previously spread out in the eternal distance as the background to your own inaccessible light? Isn't the Cross of Golgotha only the visible form of the cross you have prepared for yourself, which towers throughout the spaces of eternity?
    Is that your real coming? Is that what humanity has been waiting for? Is that why men have made the whole of human history a single great Advent-choir, in which even the blasphemers take part - a single chant crying out for you and your coming? Is your humble human existence from Bethlehem to Calvary really the coming that was to redeem wretched humanity from its misery?
    Is our grief taken from us, simply because you wept too? Is our surrender to finiteness no longer a terrible act of despair, simply because you also capitulated? Does our road, which doesn't want to end, have a happy ending despite itself, just because you are traveling it with us?
    But how can this be? And why should it be? How can our life be the redemption of itself, simply because it has also become your life? How can you buy us back from the law, simply by having fallen under the law yourself (Gal. 4:5)?
    Or is it this way: is my surrender to the crushing narrowness of earthly existence the beginning of my liberation from it, precisely because this surrender is my "Amen" to your human life, my way of saying yes to your human coming, which happens in a manner so contrary to my expectations?
    But of what value is it to me that my destiny is now a participation in yours, if you have merely made what is mine your own? Or have you made my life only the beginning of your coming, only the starting point of your life?
    Slowly a light is beginning to dawn. I've begun to understand something I have known for a long time: You are still in the process of your coming. Your appearance in the form of a slave was only the beginning of your coming, a beginning in which you chose to redeem men by embracing the very slavery from which you were freeing them. And you can really achieve your purpose in this paradoxical way, because the paths that you tread have a real ending, the narrow passes which you enter soon open out into broad liberty, the cross that you carry inevitably becomes a brilliant banner of triumph.
    It is said that you will come again, and this is true. But the word again is misleading. It won't really be "another" coming, because you have never really gone away. In the human existence that you made your own for all eternity, you have never left us.
    But still you will come again, because the fact that you have already come must continue to be revealed ever more clearly. It will become progressively more manifest to the world that the heart of all things is already transformed, because you have taken them all to your heart.
    Behold, you come. And your coming is neither past nor future, but the present, which has only to reach its fulfillment. Now it is still the one single hour of your Advent, at the end of which we too shall have found out that you have really come.
    O God who is to come, grant me the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in you forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity.