We hope you enjoy our Advent thoughts this month from our blog Igniting Hope. “Make Ready” will come to your inbox each Tuesday. If you’d like to continue receiving our Igniting Hope blog in January, update your preferences below; otherwise, you will just receive these through the Christmas season. Our hope is to encourage you and give you a chance to pause and reflect on Christ’s coming. Thanks so much for looking with us for his coming!

Make ready for the Christ

Whose smile

Like lightening,

Sets free the song of everlasting glory

That now sleeps

In your paper flesh

Like dynamite

–Thomas Merton

I’ve been pondering this idea that the smile of Christ doesn’t just light up dark places, but is powerful, cutting through stormy skies with flashes of brilliance that both dazzle and intimidate. It is not the usual image I get when I think of Jesus smiling at me. That picture is more good-natured, tender, and often twinkly. But this other image…it’s a bit unnerving. As is the idea that the smile, powerful enough to set free a song of everlasting glory (that’s a very long time) is now sleeping in my very dusty flesh like dynamite.

Several years ago we were walking in downtown Budapest and noticed one of the squares around the river cordoned off. Police cars and a bomb squad sat around, but all was quiet. No one was moving quickly, no sirens going off, just waiting. For what? We found out later an unexploded bomb (100kg Soviet-made) was being lifted from the Danube riverbed. Specialists were called in to deactivate it, residents evacuated from their homes to ensure their safety. The destruction could have been extensive. They estimate many more are in the ground around the city. Just sleeping.

See what I mean? The idea of carrying around something like dynamite in our flesh has all kinds of worry attached to it. And that’s where my mind naturally goes.

But what if that something is a smile?

The imagery of lightning leads us to imagine the power of his smile. And yet, power is the very thing Jesus set aside when he left heaven to come to earth as a human. A baby. One of us. He subjected himself to everything that happens to us all from diaper rash to betrayals to a horrific, unjust death. So, the smile sleeping inside me is power saturated in love and humility. His smile, that crack of lightning, that adoring gaze of baby to mother, the twinkle of friend to friend, the tender offering of Savior…goes off inside me and like dynamite, changes the landscape.

It changes the way things look, how they feel. It redesigns the possibilities. It gets rid of deeply planted ideas, habits and pathways that stubbornly remain, limiting growth and holding up progress. Each time I receive that smile, a little more of the distortions I hold about who I am, who God is, and what He’s about gets redefined, remade.

Which is the invitation of His smile.

I wonder how you are experiencing it now, in the thoughtfulness of this moment?

It sounds kind of strange to say, but today, may we all allow his lightning smile to explode in us, changing the possibilities, unleashing love, and showing the world who God really is.


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