As we approach the holidays, I thought it appropriate to share a couple of passages from my daily devotional. The book is Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning. As with all of his works that I have read, this one encourages and challenges me daily. Manning's words never fail to confront and comfort. The selections below have appeared during this sacred season we call Advent.
To those who want to see and experience the birth of Jesus Christ in new ways this Christmas...
"Once a year the Christmas season strikes both the sacred and secular sphers of life with a sledgehammer force: suddenly Jesus Christ is everywhere.
For approximately one month his presence is inescapable. You may accept him or reject him, affirm him or deny him, but you cannot ignore him. Of course he is proclaimed in speech, song, and symbol in all the Christian churches. But he rides every red-nosed reindeer, lurks behind every Cabbage Patch doll, resonates in the desacralized "season's greetings." Remotely or proximately, he is toasted in every cup of Christmas cheer. Each sprig of holly is a hint of his holiness, each cluster of mistletoe a sign he is here.
For those who claim his name, Christmas heralds this luminous truth: The God of Jesus Christ is our absolute future. Such is the deeply hopeful character of this sacred season. By God's free doing in Bethlehem, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Light, life, and love are on our side."
"My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, if you have been struck by the grace of Christmas, if the Lord in his mercy has given you the courage to accept acceptance, if you are convicted that Christmas is the decisive breakthrough of the passionate love of God in Jesus, if you trust that Godi is faithful to his promises, that he will finish what he began, that amazin' grace is at work right now, that you have only checked into the hotel of earth overnight and you are en route to the heavenly Jerusalem, then in the immortal words of John Powell, 'Please notify your face!.'
On the other hand, if you have not been struck by the grace of Christmas, ask for it and it will be given."
And for those who have experienced loss, disappointment, or find themselves discouraged this Christmas...
"Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father's love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it."
And finally, the words of John that so richly describe the beautiful event that is our hope: Christmas...
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)