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!
The invitation to “come as we are” sometimes leaves us with a sense of uncertainty. There’s a wonderful freedom in the words, but how far does that freedom really reach? Whose definition are we using? That ambiguity can leave us with a little moment of unease, a hesitancy to fully take up the freedom to “be who we are” and/or “come as we are.” We don’t fully know if, or maybe better said, we don’t fully believe it will really be ok to come that raw.
Then we read a statement like, “Make ready for Christ, whose smile, like lightning, sets free the song of everlasting glory” (Merton).
I wonder what the smile of Christ is like? It’s a question that awakens quiet curiosity in me.
How would you describe it for yourself?
Sometimes we have a hard time moving that smile from what we know in our heads to what we believe in our hearts. What we believe links vividly to the voice we hear in our heads telling us we should have done better, tried harder, looked nicer, spoken clearer, cared more…the list goes on. Those voices speak long and loudly and are somehow much more believable than the ones that tell us our best was enough, courage was seen, perseverance persisted, and love won…all imperfectly. Which is the rub. At some point we came to believe that “it” needed to be perfect to be good – that we needed to be perfect to be loved.
And we are not perfect…
Is it really ok to come that way? Imperfect, inadequate, with more questions than answers and failures dogging our step?
I recently read a Lenten article about a particular crucifix showing the nails in Jesus’ hands, thorns piercing his brow and feet pounded into place at the base. His suffering is clear. But his face. Not wracked with pain and turned in on itself as we would expect, but peaceful in the middle of the obscene. John’s Gospel accounts the cross as the exaltation of Jesus. Luke writes his death as an act of love: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
I’m wondering… what was God the Father’s face like in that moment?
Perhaps, this is why Christ’s smile is like lightning. It is full of everything we didn’t expect. Knows the horrors of all that can go wrong. Offers unwavering presence and pure loyalty even when everything screams save yourself!
This is the Jesus who smiles at us. Who sings over us as a mother to a child. Who calls us friend, clears our path, heals our wounds, and holds us to his breast, rescuing us time and time again. He speaks truth to us, croons over us, calls us into difficult places and every single time looks at us the same way he looked at that thief on the cross, the same way he looked at the soldier who nailed his hands. With knowing acceptance. With love.
This is the image of God from the Gospels that we need. It’s the face of the One who looks at you constantly, lovingly and with understanding. It’s the face of the God who is smiling at you. In fact, he’s smiling at you right now.
Can you sense it?