Word. Light. Witness. THIS is something new. Something different. Something… actually… joyful. The past two weeks of Advent we found ourselves desperately seeking hope. Wondering whether or not there can be peace. As the days grow shorter in the northern hemisphere and long evenings envelop our lives, the prophet cries out: “I am the voice.” I am the voice of building. Of rising. Of repairing. Of proclaiming. I am the voice of comfort. Of good news. Of gladness. I am the voice clothed in liberation. Justice. Healing. A new creation. External. The voice of a new narrative. A new narrative, of radical joy.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NRSV). And in this beginning, “when God created the heavens and the earth…God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good…” (Genesis 1:1, 3-4).
In the beginning, from the time of the Big Bang, there was Word. Light. Witness. God spoke. Light formed. God witnessed the radical joy found in creation. And it was good.
Over time, other voices began to cry out. Lifting up from the chaos, the unformed void. First it was the Israelites in Egypt, who “groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God” (Exodus 2:23b). Then the voices of the psalmist and the Hebrew prophets—Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Jonah, cried out. And in the New Testament Bartimaeus the blind begger (Mark 10:49), multiple unclean spirits (Mark 1:26, Mark 5:7, Luke 4:33), and a leper who was healed (Luke 17:15), became the voices that broke forth something new in the presence of God. Their stories were told in ancient communities. And we share them again in our time. Over and over. Echoing the great joy of embracing a new narrative. A new creation filled with radical joy.
As the drone of voices throughout time continues to escalate, John comes to us along the River Jordan. In this retelling, John is not so much a baptizer, but rather a resistor saying, “I am the voice of one…” (John 1:23a). A voice of one crying out. And then… there is… another… voice. And another. Four voices. Five. 7.6 billion… voices. The roar of voices becomes a deafening cry in the wilderness.
I am the voice of one crying out. People crying out for shelter. For sanctuary. For healing. For hope. For peace. For companionship. It is into this world, filled with the voices of despair that God puts on flesh. The spoken Word birthed from the warmth of the womb. A God who feels hunger (Mark 11:12). Thirst (John 4:7). Love (Mark 10:21, John 11:5). Pain (Matt. 27:31). Grief (John 11:35). Anger (Matt. 21:12). This is the Word born into our midst. Rev. Dr. Christopher Rodkey states that this birth of God in the flesh is a “…movement of the Divine in history that changes everything… (now in Advent) God is… about to pour Godself into the world in the most impossible and improbable of ways. Not from the station of the rich, but through a poor child. Not from a line of sitting royalty, but from a family of sinners. Not from a station of political or religious power, but in the weakness of a baby. Not from heaven, but from the flesh of earth.” – Rev. Dr. Christopher Rodkey, Coloring Advent
Word. Light. Witness. THIS is something new. Something different. We are waiting. We are waiting for a birth. We are waiting for the birth of something… actually… joyful, actually God, to arrive.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
I am going to take the liberty to shift the metaphor from Word, light, and witness, to seas, ships, and action. As the Body of Christ, as the Church, are we “fully lit and willing to show it”? For Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about one of the most creatively resistant things we can do. In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, and light, and witness, she says this:
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do. There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for” (http://www.grahameb.com/pinkola_estes.htm).
Great ships. Great witnesses. Immersed in the darkness which reveals God. Sparks hope. Word. Light. Witness. Peace. Great, radical joy. Beloved, we are living into something new. Something different. Something God. But we need to step forth into the light. Into the joy. Do radical things like take Sabbath. Make space for the Holy in our days. Visit one another. Call one another. Send cards to one another. Care for one another. Be Church. Be advocates. Listen to the voices crying out in the wilderness. Show up, even if you are not sure that you should. Get out of your comfort zone. The creation of something drastically new requires God Speaking once again in our time, the endless beginning that births joy. The space in which God pauses, witnesses, and sees that “It” is good.
I would suggest that we the Church need to respond to God’s birth and put on flesh too. We need to feel. To live fully into our humanness. We need to be Word. Light. Witness. Something new. Something different. Made in the image of a God who feels, we too feel. Every one of us feels. Hunger. Thirst. Love. Pain. Grief. Anger. In the image of THIS God, let us be “souls who are fully lit and willing to show it” knowing “why (we) came to Earth, who (we) serve, and who sent (us) here.” There are voices. Voices crying out in our wildernesses. May we embody the Good News and may something good, something God… something actually joyful… radically joyful, birth forth.