Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Katie Snipes Lancaster

The Nativity
John 1:3–4 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

Reflection on the Nativity
The premise of this month’s devotional is that the nativity can guide our prayer life, our daily intimate connection with God. If that’s true, what does John 1:1 tell us?

Brazilian theologian Rubem Alves tries to put into words his experience of the presence of God. As he makes his way from one metaphor to the next, he ultimately moves into the realm of the body: his physical encounter with the divine leaving a lasting mark on who he knows God to be. He says, “God is the wind: it comes, it goes, it cannot be put in paper cages or word cages…after it goes the only thing which is left is the memory of its touch on my skin. I can only speak about this; reverberations on my body as it is touched by the ‘Wind’; sometimes a chill, sometimes a warm feeling, goose-pimples.”

The Gospel of John paints an equally provocative picture, but on a much larger canvas. In fact it feels as if verse by verse the canvas gets wider and wider, zooming ever farther out beyond the singular experience of one human being to the quivering of divine presence within and between all that is, was and ever will be. All creation vibrates with the presence of God. Across the universe, there is held now, the memory of God’s touch on its proverbial skin.

Jesus’ name has not yet been brought forth and yet we know in advance who is being foreshadowed. We’ve seen this film before, or to carry the painting metaphor one step further, we’ve stood here before, feet planted at our favorite bench at the art museum, drawn into this masterful work of art. We know what’s ahead. We know the whole story in fact. And yet it’s worth slowing down to pay attention to the multiplicity of intertwined somehow primordial metaphors to listen for the way God might be at work in our own time and place.

Verse one started with “The Word,” the logos who was with God and who was God, and now that logos has become the central character within the very beginnings of all things. John suggests that the Word is the originator, the establisher, the founder, the fashioner, the one who drew up the blueprints for all that came before, who whipped up not just the oceans and the seas, but the stars and the galaxies. The Word—language itself, evocative of our very human ability to know, think, connect, reflect, notice, promise, or persuade—is now directly linked to these epic themes of (1) creation, (2) life itself, and (3) light.

Jesus’ birth story here in the Gospel of John, the metaphors open me to the presence of God. In (1) creation, I am reminded to notice what is sacred about the early dawn and dusk, the chill seeping in through the window sill, the squirrel, blue jay, and cardinal settling in for what’s ahead. In (2) life itself, I am reminded to carry with me that renewed gratitude we unearthed again over the Thanksgiving holiday. Even in the hardest season, there is the possibility of life being gift and gift and gift, thanks and thanks and thanks. And in (3) light, I find myself drawn back again to creation, the neon golden-pink hues of sunrise or the pinpricks of light through the night sky. For me at least, this section of John’s prologue pushes me to a prayerful spirit of noticing, watching, awaiting the presence of God. A more wordless anticipation, a quiet attentive posture of prayer.

Praying the Nativity
May we notice you, O Word.
May we be left with the memory of your touch upon our skin.
May we find you in wordless anticipation, waiting.