— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —
The Third Sunday of Advent as we heard on Sunday is about rejoicing.
It does seem a little ironic that at precisely this time we are facing a hard lockdown and the prospect of spending Christmas apart from many of our family members and friends. We live in fear when someone coughs, sneezes or doesn’t wear a mask in the tram. We hear of the increasing rise in the number of infections and deaths due to Covid 19 and like some death eaters’ hand it seems to be creeping closer and closer towards us. Anxiety and fear eat away at us. This doesn’t really inspire us to rejoice.
Isaiah’s words from Sunday’s reading (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 ) however, lend optimism to our current bleak outlook on life. This is not just about us as individuals. Isaiah encourages us to look outward, away from ourselves, to open up our eyes and hearts to people and objects around us and view them as God created them – with love and passion.
I can almost see Isaiah bouncing up and down with joy. But, how do I get there?
Recently I read a text by Diana Butler Bass on Heaven. It’s imagery fascinated me:
For centuries, church buildings have been tall and narrow with steeples piercing the sky. The vertical architecture symbolized the fundamental structure of Christianity: God was in heaven, and humankind was here on earth. A gap existed between God and us, and the church served as mediator between the two realms, communicating the word of God down to us and providing a pathway of salvation up to God. In a way, churches have functioned like elevators of divine things, with the top floor, as it were, life’s last trip.
There is a gap between our earthly existence and the image of God’s divine dwelling place which is unattainable to us humans. Jesus bridged this gap. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Jesus brought heaven down to earth for us. He gave us a glimpse of the glory that awaits us.
Similarly we have a gap between the way we see and experience the world around us when we are downhearted and the way we see and experience it when we feel good. Jesus can bridge this gap, by adjusting the balance between these two perspectives through his love for us. If we allow him to enter into our lives and hearts, and by that I mean not just opening the door to take a little peak out before quickly slamming it shut again, but really allowing him to enter fully into our lives. Acknowledging and confessing our deepest secrets, misdeeds, desires, fears to a dear, loving and trusted friend from whom we have no secrets and who in turn knows us inside out. We can hide nothing. Once we have opened that door fully, we will perceive things differently and the gap will get smaller and smaller. I imagine it a bit like looking through lenses that intensify everything around us. Through these lenses we can see both the beauty of God’s creation as well as the suffering and injustice in the world. The intensity is such that we cannot ignore either – neither the beauty nor the suffering. But, how can we be joyful when we see suffering in that intensity?
We are not only recipients of joy, but also givers of joy. Rejoicing is possible if we allow ourselves to be moved by the Spirit to bring light, hope and joy to other’s darkness and pain. This can be in small gestures: a smile, a helping hand, a listening ear, infectious laughter, empathy, concern, giving of one’s time, someone’s cheerful personality. Just think of healthcare workers who bring healing from pain and distress. We have seen scenes of joy on the media when health care workers have clapped and cried as patients were able to leave the hospital after being so close to death with Covid 19. Joy is much stronger when it is born of suffering. Giving joy to others increases our own joy and we shine unbeknownst to us as beacons of lightness in someone’s darkness.
My hope is that by allowing Jesus into our lives, he will, through his love for us, redress the balance in our lives and bridge that gap, transforming our vision from inward looking to outward looking and making us aware of God’s passion for us, his children, and the whole of creation. Maybe then we too can bounce up and down with joy like Isaiah and spread His joy into the world.