• Stillness

    If you are near a window, look outside.  If not, still consider nature at this time of year.  What kind of a day is it?  What do you see or imagine?  If it is wintry, just be present to it for a while.  If you wish, go outside and find a leafless tree, or withered flower, something that speaks of winter’s unresponsiveness.  And let it be whatever it is.

  • Scripture

    Jn 1: 14-15

    And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 

  • Reflection

    • When John speaks of ‘the Word’ in verse 1 of this chapter, he does it in order to reveal Jesus as being present at the very beginning of creation – John shows Jesus in all his cosmic power and brilliance. In 1:14, John uses ‘the Word’ to highlight how the impossible became possible – the co-creator enters into the created. The distant God becomes our Emmanuel – “God with us”. The ‘newness’ and radicalness of this event has become blunted over time due to repetition and familiarity.

      Take some time to reflect deeply on the significance of this core belief to your own life – the incarnation of God into a little baby in a manger.

    • Many of those who had waited for the Messiah’s coming were prevented from recognising ‘the Word’ due to their preconceived ideas as to what form that coming would take.  What are some ideas that might challenge you from fully embracing the wonder of Jesus being God incarnate?

      Is the incarnation of God something you really believe, or has it over time, become just something that you repeat as a habit?

    • The incarnation of ‘the Word’ is an incarnation into all of creation. Pope Francis reminds us that “the universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.” (L.S. #233)

      Do these words challenge your traditional understanding of Jesus coming into the world? In what way? Reflect on your interpretation of the incarnation in reference to Col. 1:15-20): “he is the firstborn of all creation … and all things were reconciled through him.”

      What can you do within your Advent journey that opens you up to a fuller Christmas celebration of all creation being a deep revelation of ‘the Word made flesh.’

      How does your daily lifestyle (i.e. your choices regarding food consumption, modes of travel, re-cycling etc.) reflect your belief in the manifestation of God in all things? What changes would you like to make to your lifestyle that helps live out this belief even more strongly?

    • When John tells us that the Word ‘lived among us’, the more literal translation is that he ‘tabernacled’ (or ‘pitched his tent’) among us. This term comes from the journey of the Jewish people through the desert in the book of Exodus when the tabernacle referred to a portable dwelling place of Yahweh that went ahead of them to lead them, and a place where they could meet with God. It consisted of a wooden structure with a tent pitched over the top (cf. Exod. 40:34-38)

      Because God took the initiative to be born into the world, he could have chosen to be born anywhere, at any time, and in any situation – he chose to be born poor and on the margins of society and religion. The image of the tent (as opposed to a castle or a sturdy house) suggests Jesus’ existence was one of his deliberate choosing to be vulnerable, with little protection against any storms (metaphorically) that he would encounter.

      “God ‘tabernacled’… God ‘pitched his tent’… amongst us” (John 1:14). Have you heard these translations before? Do you like them? Why/ why not? Reflect on them for a while and let the symbolism of them break open new understandings of the Incarnation for you.

      Take time to reflect on some of the times Jesus left himself vulnerable. Why do you think he chose to do this?

      In what situations in the world is God pitching his tent in a special way today? Are you choosing to meet him in these situations, or do you turn a blind eye?

    • John tells us that Jesus was ‘full of grace’. This phrase is often associated with Mary, his mother. But what does it mean? It means that Jesus is full of unconditional love and compassion for each one of us. In his ‘dwelling amongst us’ Jesus takes the initiative and comes unsummoned in love, and with love, for all. Where do you experience such unconditional love and compassion – among family… friends… neighbours…?

      What way do you try to exercise unconditional love in your daily life?

  • Talk to God

    • God became flesh, so that we can encounter God more easily. He chose to enter into experiencing the pain of being misunderstood, exhausted, heartbroken and grieving, humiliation and fear and betrayal

      He chose to enter into experiencing the solidarity of friendship, the deepening of self-knowledge and sense of mission, the embracing of gentle ministrations and love, the security of family, the joys of socialising…

      Take time to reflect on any parts of Jesus’ life that closely resonates with what you are going through in your life at the moment. What is the situation? How is Jesus’ experience similar to yours? How does it differ? Talk to him about your own particular situation. Tell him how you feel… what you want… what you need.

      Tell him everything. He will listen deeply… He will know… He will understand.

    • Pope Francis tells us that it is through our bodies, that “God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement.” (E.G. #215; L.S. #89)
    • Spend time immersing yourself in God’s creation – this may take the form of being outside in a forest… beside a lake… wherever you can go to see and celebrate the revelation of God in the created world around you. Or, it may be as simple as being still before a small potted plant at home (or even a picture of one) Do you notice that every leaf, every flower, every stalk - even on the one plant - is different from all the rest. Each is unique. And in each, God is revealed in a new way – never repeated.

      Give thanks to Jesus for the wonder, the excitement, the miracle of his choosing to ‘tabernacle’ in our midst in every second of our existence.

    • Jesus was “full of grace” (Jn 1:14)

      Place yourself in the presence of Jesus’ deep love and compassion for you. Can you feel it?

      You are created out of love and for love. Do you believe this? Are you open to being deeply loved by God? Do you see and feel God’s love reaching out and touching you?

      If something is blocking you from feeling such love … such compassion, what do you think it may be? Let whatever the blocks are within to gently come up to the surface.

      Now listen to God’s words to you:
      ‘You are the salt of the earth…’ (Matthew 5:13)
      You are the light of the world…’ (Matthew 5:14)

      ‘You have been made in God’s image and likeness…’ God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them (Genesis 1:27)

    • ‘Even though a mother should forget her child, I will not forget you…’
    • Can a woman forget her nursing-child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)

      Allow God’s unconditional love to dwell deeply within you and experience his compassion.

      Where is God choosing to ‘pitch his tent’ in your life? Where can you see him present – In yourself? In your family? Among your friends? In the world? Where are you being called to ‘pitch your tent’? - to be a shelter and a security for others… a shelter that can also be vulnerable and broken? Ask Jesus to help you grow in openness and courage to be his presence for others.

      What images, questions, thoughts or feelings are you left with after your reflection on these words of John. Spend some time in quiet prayer with whatever arises.