Week Two: The Incarnation

WEEK TWO: THE INCARNATION

 
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In late October, I spent three days immersed with other United Methodist conference leaders and seven Bishops in the Rio Grande River Valley learning about Hispanic and Latino ministry.  It was a rich and powerful experience.  The entire time I was there, with every person I met and in every encounter I had, I thought of the incarnation – of Jesus.  Jesus and his family would have had dark skin, much more like those I met than light, freckle-skinned me.

More than skin tone, though, what made my mind wander to Jesus and the Holy Family during my border experience was the constant movement there:  border guards and other law enforcement officers, buses, people walking, sidewalks packed, and delicious food being consumed.

We are entering the season of Advent.  Jesus will be born again, if only in our hearts.  In the stories of this season, Jesus and his family will cross borders – to Bethlehem for the census, to Egypt to escape the Tetrarch Herod, then back to Nazareth to begin his carpenter’s apprenticeship.  The incarnation is complex.  God becomes a human baby.  That baby grows into a man who is eventually arrested and put to death on a cross, only to rise again.

But that moves the complex story too far down the road for now.  Let’s rest in the complexity and mystery of the incarnation for this moment.  And let’s cross a border to meet this one eventually called Christ.  In this season, we’ll call him Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.  Incarnation.

Rev. Derrek Belase

 
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Dear God, thank you for appearing to us in the form of a human being called Jesus so that we might know you better.  Thank you for sending the light into the world.  As I focus on these scriptures this week, help me to see the light of life in my own life and in the world around me.  Amen.


Day One: 

“I believe there are angels among us” is a popular song from a few years back.  It screams incarnation.  There may be some times when the angels in your life appeared in real, tangible, human form to quell your fear.  They certainly have for me.

Luke 1:11-17 – Lord, just as your angel appeared to Zechariah, sometimes we are terrified at your presence, and fear overwhelms us. But the angel says to us, “Do not be afraid, for your prayer has been heard.”  Help us to recognize your presence in our lives and let fear be removed.  Amen.

Ask yourself — What is your experience with angels?  Do you believe in them?  When have you been afraid, and who were the angels that appeared in your life at that moment? 

Prayer:  Dear God, thank you for appearing to us in the form of a human being called Jesus so that we might know you better.  Thank you for sending the light into the world.  As I focus on these scriptures this week, help me to see the light of life in my own life and in the world around me.  Amen.


Day Two:

Another angelic visitation.  This time the angel appears (incarnation) to Mary with big news of a pregnancy, but the conclusion is the same, “Do not be afraid.”

Luke 1:26-38 – Lord, when angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin, Mary, engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, she heard these words: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”  Like we might be, she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. But then she heard, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  Mary, still confused, said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” but the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…for nothing will be impossible with God.” We believe that, O God, and we proclaim with Mary, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Amen.

Ask yourself —  When have you been afraid in life?  Who were the messengers that helped you deal with your fear?  Do you feel highly favored?  Do you believe nothing is impossible with God?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for appearing to us in the form of a human being called Jesus so that we might know you better.  Thank you for sending the light into the world.  As I focus on these scriptures this week, help me to see the light of life in my own life and in the world around me.  Amen.


Day Three:

In our lives, many of us have mentors or an older person with whom we share both the joys and concerns of our lives.  Elizabeth was this person for young Mary.  When pregnant Mary shows up (incarnation) to share her news with the pregnant Elizabeth, mentoring happens.

Luke 1:39-45:  God, when Mary entered Elizabeth’s home, John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”  Upon seeing another, may we experience the same joy in our own lives.  Amen.

Ask yourself — Who are the mentors in your life?  With whom are you willing to share?  Do people look to you for mentoring?  When was the last time you “showed up” for another?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for appearing to us in the form of a human being called Jesus so that we might know you better.  Thank you for sending the light into the world.  As I focus on these scriptures this week, help me to see the light of life in my own life and in the world around me.  Amen.


Day Four: 

The mother of our Lord breaks out in joyous song when she thinks about the baby (incarnation) she is carrying.  She cannot contain her joy.  It overwhelms her ability to comprehend it.

Luke 1:46-56 —  Mary proclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”  What more is there to say?  In the name of the one Mary proclaims, Amen.

Ask yourself —  When was the last time you were so filled with joy that you could not help but sing?  What was the song?  Was the content of that song as prophetic as Mary’s song?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for appearing to us in the form of a human being called Jesus so that we might know you better.  Thank you for sending the light into the world.  As I focus on these scriptures this week, help me to see the light of life in my own life and in the world around me.  Amen.


Day Five: 

The light (incarnation) enters the world.  When I think of light entering the world, I think either of a slow, beautiful sunrise or the jarring moment when someone turns on the light in a room where I am sleeping.  The result is the same – as soon as my eyes adjust, I can see!

John 1:1-9 – We remember, O God that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”  He was life and light, and we rejoice that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Thank you for sending John, who “came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” We are thankful for the true light, Jesus.

Ask yourself – What represents light in the world today?  Who bears light to you?  How are you a bearer of light to others?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for appearing to us in the form of a human being called Jesus so that we might know you better.  Thank you for sending the light into the world.  As I focus on these scriptures this week, help me to see the light of life in my own life and in the world around me.  Amen.


Day Six:

The incarnation of Christ is something that can be difficult to understand, but what if we think about how we might have a similar mind as Christ had?  In his letter to the Philippians, Paul helps us see this in a new way.

Philippians 2:5-11 – Help me, Creator God, to have “the same mind … that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”  In this season of anticipation, we remember that all throughout his life, “God … highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Amen.

Ask yourself – How do you have the mind of Christ?  How easy is it for you?  What practices help you train your mind to think like Christ?

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for appearing to us in the form of a human being called Jesus so that we might know you better.  Thank you for sending the light into the world.  As I focus on these scriptures this week, help me to see the light of life in my own life and in the world around me.  Amen.


Day Seven:

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for appearing to us in the form of a human being called Jesus so that we might know you better.  Thank you for sending the light into the world.  As I focus on these scriptures this week, help me to see the light of life in my own life and in the world around me.  Amen.

 
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Look over your notes/prayers from the past week. What seems meaningful to you?  Did you receive any insight, inspiration, or challenge?  Does something require more prayer of discernment?  We don’t decide when God will “show up;” instead, we want to be ready and aware when He does.  Whatever your experience is this week, stay committed.  God is coming!  The incarnation reminds us that we are never alone.  God is with us and we can celebrate. 

Catherine HortonComment