advent 20 sample (from the last series)
// 11 - The Low Lintel of the Human Heart
"It is not that we, as pilgrims, climb to a celestial city, but that the Christ child is born in the poverty of our hearts." Philip Britts
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Here is one of the persistent challenges which Advent lovingly confronts us with, year upon slowly turning year: that we cannot achieve closeness to God ourselves, but instead are asked to receive God in to "the poverty of our hearts".
It's a challenge because our ego's impulse is to want to climb high, to scale life's ladders. And even when we find faith, it can be hard to fully accept that we have been freed from the constricting urge to prove our worth; from the illusion that we must make it all the way up to the celestial city on our own.
Subconsciously, we can transfer the ego's efforts (or redouble them!) into the spiritual context, measuring our spiritual growth in terms of (say) our growing responsibilities in church, our busyness, even; or believing that even if God loves everyone else unconditionally, he can't love me, so I still need to win approval like it's a competition.
But as the poet Philip Britts affirms, "This is not the way of the manger." Sweet relief. Instead, the Word became flesh "so that the same amazing life that broke into the world when Jesus was born actually becomes realised in our own lives here and now."
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Evelyn Underhill, the 19th-century Christian mystic, author and poet, puts it movingly in her poem Immanence. Its refrain, "I come in the little things, Saith the Lord", reminds me of the majestic humility of God, which invites us, little by little, to discover our own. God comes to us, she writes, in "the delicate and bladed wheat", the flowers in our garden, "the glancing wings of eager birds" and "the softly pattering feet of gentle beasts". A reminder to keep watch! But she finishes on the extraordinary come-down of the Incarnation:I come in the little things, Saith the Lord: My starry wings I do forsake, Love’s highway of humility to take: Meekly I fit My stature to your need. In beggar’s part About your gatesI shall not cease to plead— As man, to speak with man— Till by such art I shall achieveMy Immemorial Plan, Pass the low lintel of the human heart.
"Herein is love," as John tells us in the Bible: "not that we loved God, but that he loved us." The way of the manger. Passing the low lintel of the human heart.
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Try this!: You can read the whole of Immanence here. Try to spend some time with it today. Print it out. Notice the words or phrases that catch your attention. How does God come to you in the little things? Keep watch today. And don't forget hineni. Here we are.
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RSVP: What little things do you find God within? Keep watch today, and do send your observations, shared wisdom and responses by replying to this e-mail - and I will post your RSVPs to be read a little later in the day here.
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May you find the way of the manger, today.