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Advent – a time when people of faith come into being? A month ago, this would have baffled me. Not so today because this Advent, I decided to do something different.
I love Christmas. No matter how long I live, I’ll never be a Scrooge. The music, decorations, lights, even the traffic and busy stores. Sure, it’s over-commercialized and the meaning gets lost in the frenzy, but I can more than balance awaiting Santa Claus with awaiting the Christ Child, Sleigh Ride with Away in a Manger, and pondering my shopping list with pondering this mystery we call the Incarnation.
This year though, I needed something to tip the scales even more towards the sacred, something different to deepen my anticipation. So I enrolled in an online course, “The Gospel of Thomas for Advent with Cynthia Bourgeault,” offered through the website Spirituality and Practice (www.spiritualityandpractice.com).
Starting the first Sunday of Advent through Christmas Day, we received a daily wisdom saying (“logion”) from the Gospel of Thomas with a commentary by Bourgeault, including spiritual practice suggestions. There was also a group page for participants to share their insights. Writing helps me explore and express my faith, so I committed to treating this as my journal and posting something every day.
On December 26, I felt the usual let-down but not for the usual reasons. When I checked my email, no logion from Thomas waited for me, no Bourgeault teaching, and no group page. Just me, staring out my window at the winter sky, left with a new understanding of an old story with no words to express it.
Then I discovered Merriam-Webster’s definition for advent, finding language perfectly summing up what my entire new Advent experience had been driving towards: the Incarnation as a “coming into being.”
The Incarnation – one of the cornerstones of Christian faith. The Divine arriving incarnate in Jesus. Without this, there would be no reason for the season. I don’t claim to understand it but that’s the story I was taught. The good news is that since God becomes human, and I am human, there must be a spark of God in me. A spiritual a=b, b=c, therefore a=c kind of formula.
Our Christmas Eve logion however took this story to a new place. “Jesus says, Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like I am.” I partake of the Eucharist and become like Jesus who, because he is divine, elevates me to spiritual heights. But here is where it gets interesting. Jesus goes on to say, “…and I also will become as they are so that what is hidden will become manifest.”
Jesus becomes like me? I need to become like him, obviously, in order to live into my divinity, but why would he become like me? Because it’s reciprocal, like the exchange of Christmas gifts! By partaking in the Eucharist, he becomes like me to help me live into my humanity, to help me with the coming into my own being. As Bourgeault suggests, Jesus chooses to enter us to nourish our connection to our own imperishable wholeness so we can live our lives here and now as God manifesting in human form.
No wonder the Church wants nothing to do with this gospel! Who cares about the unfolding of our human-ness, of our wholeness? Apparently, according to Thomas, Jesus did.
At church this past Sunday when we sang O Come All Ye Faithful, the words, “Jesus, to thee, be all glory given. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing,” gave me chills. The Incarnation will remain a mystery but thanks to Thomas and Cynthia Bourgeault, I’ll forever ponder it through new eyes.
Christmas will remain that same old Jingle Bells time of year. And Advent, well, it’s not just a matter of waiting any more. It’s a process, a journey happening every day, the gift which keeps on giving, a most glorious gift from the Divine through Jesus of my very own coming into being.