Day Twenty Five: A Shared Life Taking Shape

Psalm 148
Exodus 33:18-23
1 John 1:1-9

Within the Christmas Mystery this year, I have been captivated by the wonder of the God-of-our-wide-universe
(the Maker of mountaintops and morning stars,
of sunshine and thunderstorms,
of apple orchards and cedar forests,
of fire and hail and snow and ice,
of ocean depths
and the fantastic beasts that dwell within them,
of animals, wild and tame,
of angel armies and intimate friends,
of old and young of different races and giftings;
praised by all created things as the
God-whose-radiance-exceeds-everything) – see Psalm 148 –
choosing
to enter into our lives
in the wrapped-up form of a human baby.

To borrow (and re-order) the words of the hymn-writer, Charles Wesley:

“He laid his glory by,
He wrapped him in our clay …
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made man.”

At the heart of my wonder is the realisation that though our Christmas celebrations centre around a historical act, it is one that spans the ages to offer me (and you), personally and intimately, the invitation to experience a shared life with God –

a life lived right beside God,
shielded by God’s own hand from the fullness of God’s glory which we cannot yet grasp or understand (Exodus 33:22),
yet fully welcome in the communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
and present to the Infinite and Eternal taking shape and unfolding right before us
(1 John 1:2-3).

God not only knows you and I by name
but God longs to be known
by you and by me
in increasing intensity of understanding and intimacy …

… the God who holds everything known and unknown about the universe
in such mighty hands,
shielding us in such gentle hands,
entrusting Godself into our hands
made clean by the blood of God’s son …

… that our joy (and God’s) may be complete
as we walk and fellowship and grow in God’s truth and light.

For a moment, make your arms into the shape of a cradle waiting to receive a child. Feel the emptiness of space waiting to be filled.

Now imagine the Infinite God, wrapped in cloth, in human form, lying in your arms. Savour the weight of such presence,
the warmth of such intimacy.

Reflect on what Christ gave up in taking on such a fragile form. Wonder about some of the yearnings of God to share life with YOU. 

Such intimacy,
such trust,
such knowing
is not – as we saw in yesterday’s readings concerning Jeremiah and Stephen –
without implications or consequence:
if we long to share life with the One-in-whom-there-is-no-darkness,
that life needs to make place:
for God’s Word and Truth,
for fellowship with one another,
for confession of our sin, our need,
for God’s faithfulness and forgiveness,
for “Son-bathing” in God’s light and love
for us and for others (1 John 1:6-10).

As you think about the year that lies ahead, reflect on the space that you have created and might want to create to share life. Where and when and how will you find place to cradle and to be cradled?

A Gathering Prayer

Following on from the gathering in – with string idea that I recently shared is a prayer based loosely on Psalm 119:49-56 which connects us with the countless generations of men, women, and children who have experienced the faithfulness of God in the triumphs and the struggles of their lives.

The naming of these saints in Scripture deliberately includes people of different ages, genders, callings, and covenants – and even those whose stories have been made known to us without naming for all have place in the kin(g)dom of God.

The simple response of two lines (in bold) roots us in this wide family and reminds us that God knows us by name. For large congregations, each person can offer their name simultaneously but in smaller congregations, I would encourage taking the time for each to offer their name in turn. It is an intimate moment of being seen and offering oneself to be known.

***

God we gather this day,
though life is difficult and full of its own troubles.

We gather though it often seems that the wicked prosper and flourish
even as we go through tough times.

We gather though people mock us, look down on us,
and ridicule our way of life, our beliefs.

We gather because Your Word comforts and counsels us.
We gather because Your age-old revelation keeps us on the right track.

We gather because Your instructions ignite a song within our spirit
as we walk the pilgrim way.

But above all,
we gather because we know You;
because we have experienced Your touch upon our lives
and can boldly proclaim that You are a good and gracious God –
merciful and kind,
just and true,
faithful to Your promises.

You are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You are the God of Benjamin, of Samuel, and of David.
You are the God of Ruth, Deborah, and Esther.
You are the God of Daniel, of Jonah, and of Jeremiah.
You are the God of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
You are the God of Peter, of Paul, and of John.
You are the God of Mary, Lydia, and Dorcas.
You are the God of the many unnamed people who You fed, who You taught, who You healed.

Today, we gather to remember that You are the God of <insert your name>
and we place our hope in Your presence and Your promises.

The power of a name

When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.
~Tess Scott

In John 20:11-18, angels, titles, roles, designations – mommy, wife, daughter, reverend, sister, friend – cannot break through Mary’s blinding loss and grief. Yet by uttering her name, Jesus changes EVERYTHING!

What, then, does the name that I use for God change?

What would I name You, God?

Father, with a lap more expansive than the night sky You created and all-enfolding arms,     stronger than the mountains but gentler than the ocean’s breeze?

Redeemer, with a servant’s hands and humble heart and broken body upon the cross?

Liberator, who flings wide the gates of death and turns the valley of trouble into a door of hope? 

Do I name You Love, with and within me; patient, forgiving, reconciling, enduring, inspiring, alluring?

Or God of Israel, Holy One, full of power and might; zealous for my affections; worthy of may adoration?

Nay, Lord, though these You are, and thousands more beside … friend, teacher, master, healer, Spirit, Light, Shepherd, breath, living waters, eternal word ….

At Your invitation, I dare this day to call you “lover,” “husband” – my beloved, my betrothed;
  to risk a deeper intimacy with you than I have ever known;
   a full surrender;
    an absolute and unequivocal “yes” to life walked with You day by day and hand in hand.

To You alone
who knows my secret name,
my hidden depths,
I give my life
as I say “YES!”