Archive for December, 2012
‘The Word became flesh,’ wrote John, ‘and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14).
All religions and philosophies which deny the reality or the significance of the material, the fleshly, the earth-bound, are themselves denied. Moses at the burning bush was told to take off his shoes because the ground on which he stood was holy ground (Exodus 3:5), and incarnation means that all ground is holy ground because God not only made it but walked on it, ate and slept and worked and died on it. If we are saved anywhere, we are saved here. And what is saved is not some diaphanous distillation of our bodies and our earth but our bodies and our earth themselves …
One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God. Frederick Buechner
Merry Christmas to all – enjoy the wonder of the “with-us” God.
This is the irrational season, when love blooms bright and wild. Had Mary been filled with reason, there’d been no room for the child. Madeleine L’Engle
Most of us have a favourite Christmas movie, one you haul out every Christmas holiday season. Sure, part of the reason for Christmas movie watching is to disarm tense and awkward family dynamics during Christmas, but some of it is to enjoy a sense of wonder. In our house, along with the annual Lord of the Rings extended version movie marathon, the top Christmas flick is Millions. Christmas is meant to be a season of wonder and this movie will get you into that space.
Flowing from the beautiful imagination of director Danny Boyle, Millions is a quirky, lovely film that invites you to see the world through the eyes of the main character Damian, to view things from his child-like, faith-filled imagination – which is mostly the very thing I need to keep my faith alive and agile.
The story centers on the young Damian Cunningham, whose cardboard fort is smashed into by a duffel bag full of money (watch the movie to find out more of that story). Convinced it is a gift of divine generosity, Damian dreams up ways of stewarding it for the sake of the poor. However, his brother Anthony has an entirely different understanding of the money, purchasing goods, favours and attention as well as plotting out how to maximize returns on the funds.
Damian is an emblem for the child-like faith Jesus urges in his followers. His world is populated by the communion of the saints (great scenes with various saints especially the martyrs of Uganda), rooted in his robust belief that God exists and is working everything together for good. He’s so open to grace and miracle. But it’s not childish – there’s a sturdy resolve in him, an awareness of the suffering of the world and a commitment to live out grace in that place. It’s a beautiful world Damian lives in – the enchanted world-view of Christianity that produces a generosity of heart, a joy in self-donation.
At the end of Millions we see Damian’s vision for generous living and giving come to life. Damian and his family crawl into his cardboard fort/hermitage and are jettisoned off to another place were we catch sight of a different world through the child-like eyes of grace.
During the final scenes, Damian narrates: “This is my story. This is where I want it to end.” If it was his brother Anthony’s story, it would’ve ended differently. But Millions is Damian’s vision for life, something closely connected to the Christmas impulse of self-donation, where streams of living water flow freely.
Millions is the story of our life, the story of Christmas, where we have been sent millions, treasures from heaven, infinite, lavish grace in Jesus. And the question for us is how are we going to steward that treasure? How do we want to see this story end?
Hope you have a chance to see it, enjoy the lovely wonder of Damian’s faith-filled vision for life, and continue writing the story of Christ’s vision for this world.
The publisher of my book Seeking God’s Face is offering a smokin’ hot deal. Only one more day left – the deal shuts down tomorrow but you can order them here right now at Faith Alive. Avoid sweating through the malls in a heavy winter coat and get a fine resource that will keep giving through til 2025 – what’s not to like about it.
In our church during Advent we’re entering into the lineage of Jesus, dwelling with the stories of the four women named in Matthew’s genealogy. As a disciple of Jesus, this is my family tree, my spiritual DNA, these strong women my faith grandmothers. I love this genealogy, populated by wild and woolly risk-takers, most with the scent of scandal clinging about them.
I need to be reminded of this heritage because the slow drift of my heart is often towards cautious discipleship and a certain domestication of God. When Christianity becomes enchanted by North American worldliness it quickly gets reduced to a consumer spirituality, cordoned off as a harmless private morality and drained of its unsettling agenda.
But that sort of thing is distinctly out of shape with the contours of the gospel. Read Mary’s Magnificat and you can’t help but think: “Mary, Mary, little revolutionary.” These grandmothers in the gospel remind me of Advent’s radical hope, one I clutch on to for our fragile world, the gospel’s alternate reading of reality that looks and longs for God’s good intentions for all human life. These women lead me in a Jesus-way of life that counters both liberal and conservative ideologies, challenges both religious and irreligious, irks both traditionalists and relativists – and, consequently, a way of life that will run you into trouble with most people.
G.K. Chesterton, as he so often does, captures well the fierce faith of these women and the lovely paradox of living the gospel:
Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.
He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.
He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
~ Madeleine L’Engle
“Father, I am weary of all that is wrong with the world – murder of the innocents, a smeared and wrecked creation, tyrant-oppressed poor, hunger-withered children, exploited women, forgotten elderly, invisible homeless. I long to see that all these enemies – yours and mine – will be, once for all, condemned, and all things crooked made straight. Set me to making a way for your justice with renewed vigour. In Jesus our Deliverer’s name we pray, amen.
Seeking God’s Face, prayers for Advent, Day 9.
For ravaged lives and broken hearts – in Connecticut and Calcutta, Regent Park and Ramallah, East Hastings and Ethiopia – come, Lord Jesus, come.