Scripture reading for today:
If you have been reading the reflections so far in this Advent reader, you may be struck by the dark reality that has been offered. As editor of this collection, I have been appreciating the honesty with which the authors have been reflecting, yet placed one after another I am struck by how hard it is to face the darkness of our world, the darkness of Advent. But a truly prophetic voice does not stop with the truth-telling of darkness, the point of the prophetic voice is to call out a response to the darkness, a request for change, a hope of transformation. As we continue to journey through Advent the authors will sound more notes like that in our reflections – it may not be easier to hear these challenges, but there will be shimmering light trying to break through the cracks in the dark portrayal of our reality.
When I was a teenager, I remember reading this passage in 2 Peter 1 and being drawn to the concrete nature of the progression toward maturity: “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” This seemed almost too good to be true, an instruction guide for character development, I just needed to follow the steps. A few decades later, as I see the ebb and flow of my own spiritual journey, I know that life is not quite as simple as a progression through virtues. Even though these virtues are very much worthy of being pursued. I think I knew even back then that something more was going on. I remember wondering why I would need to wait until I acquired all these other virtues to really acquire the love indicated here. Wouldn’t love be better suited at the beginning of the process?
When I studied theology, I gravitated toward stories of transformation, historical stories of how people were changed because they encountered Jesus in their everyday life. As I look back, hearing these stories has prompted me along the journey toward more holiness. But, I have a confession to make, most days I feel awfully far from my own transformation – and the journey of parenthood has been the most recent part of my life to show me that I still need to work out my own salvation. My precious first born is now almost 3 years old, and he has had an opinion of his own for most of those three years. I have to admit that some of the everyday choices I make in parenting this complex little human are not what I had imagined parenthood to be. Yet how can I not be impacted by both the immense love that I feel when he runs from across the room for a hug that knocks me over; and the immense sadness I feel when I have to hold firm to a boundary and he cries and withdraws and looks at me across his bedroom and shouts, “just go!” Most times I react with passion to his passion, but I also want to grow in my capacity to hold my own reaction at bay in favour of what is best for him, because he is a little person, created in God’s image, who needs respect and needs to be parented with great love. I want to be better, I want to be different than I am.
As I read this 2 Peter text now, my attention goes instead to a phrase earlier in the passage: “he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” Participation in the divine nature is one of the most compelling ways I have heard the Christian life expressed. Rather than seeing salvation a legal transaction, or even adoption – a familial transaction, participation in the divine nature evokes the thought that in salvation something foundational has been transformed. And it has, the very nature of the divine has been made available to humanity through the unexpected method of birth, the birth of Jesus. Birth is a natural process, one which happened every day before Jesus was born, and which has continued to happen every day since. Yet, something changed when God became enfleshed. Our salvation was birthed on Christmas Day.
It is scandalous enough to think that the incarnation means that God has made it possible for us to be more like Himself, but what is this nature he has offered to us? How gracious, how merciful, how self-giving, how power-sharing is He? How much time does He spend in the margin? So, if this promise of participating in the divine nature is true – it is not actually a call to be raised up to the kind of God we aspire to be, but instead, it is that God has come near, has come down, has opened up reality so we can see that our transformation is that we will change how we see our world. Through our tears and struggles, we see the world in a new light – we will no longer desire to escape our situation for the sake of power or perfection. Instead, God meets us here.Through our tears and struggles, we see the world in a new light Click To Tweet
As I read the other two passage in our lectionary reading today, I see this so much clearer. God is the one who does not remove us from the reality and struggle, he is the one who meets us in it, and blesses the virtue developed in the midst of the mess.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:5-6)
Thank you for reading the New Leaf Advent Reader, a collection of reflections from writers across Canada. If you are enjoying the reader, sign up to receive the readings in your inbox each day here: SIGN UP And please share this reflection with your friends and family who might also enjoy it.