Christmas: God on both sides of the equation…

If you have read more than a handful of my blogs, you will have realised how indebted I am to the writings and thoughts of Henri Nouwen. His book “Wounded Healer” was on the list of recommended reading when I first became a Candidate for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament with the Church of Scotland back in the 1970’s. It is still a book worth reading. Though some of the  cultural analysis of the times in which it was written shows that nothing stays static for long, basically – at the risk of sounding patronising –   it passes the test of time pretty well. I would encourage you to read it to find out what it means to think of  Jesus, the Messiah, as the Wounded Healer, and what it means to be involved in His ministry in the world. However I have been thinking in the last few days of a phrase that came to my own mind a few months ago: Jesus as “Wounded Traveller.” That thought came back to me with renewed force today as I was talking with my friend, Rich Johnston. I will say  more about it a bit later on in this blog.

Earlier Christian centuries than our own  were full of discussion and argument as to the best way linguistically to express the mystery of the Incarnation: how do you express that Jesus was God and Man, accurately, without diminishing the reality of His deity or the reality of  His humanity?  I have always liked the way St. Anselm expressed the mystery. He talked of “The God-Man.” With Christmas approaching, I was thinking of that ancient attempt to describe the mystery of the Incarnation, and as I did so,  I found my thoughts going beyond Jesus birth to His ministry as recorded in the gospels,  and also to consider  the way I experience Jesus personally. Because Jesus is “the God-Man,” I can find him on both sides of any human predicament or experience I may be facing. That might seem like theological gobbledygook, so let me clarify and illustrate what I mean. Take the story of “The Good Samaritan.” Although we must never forget the whole point of that parable  is “Go and do thou likewise” in terms of being a neighbour to those in need, indulge me here for a moment and let me speak of the parable in relation to my experience of Jesus. I can see Him on both sides of the main action of the parable  I could sum up my thinking like this:

At times Jesus draws near to me as the “Wounded or Stigmatised Healer” whose divine help I may accept or push away (despite my need). At times I meet Him in the “Wounded Traveller.” I can choose to stoop towards Him in compassion and care, or pass Him by.

All of this has put  a new tool in my hands in terms of spiritual discernment. Christ is fact. His presence is fact in any life or situation. Part of being a Christian is asking, “Where is the fact of Christ?” in  any given moment. Because of what I have outlined above, I can ask that in more defined terms: “Is Christ revealing Himself to me in this moment and happening as “Wounded and Stigmatised Healer” or as “Wounded Traveller?”  “The God-Man” can be either because He is  both.  In Himself, He brings the help of God to our human frailty and cries out  for God’s help from within it. He offers me the gift of  His merciful, divine love and  help for my own life,  and also calls me  to hear His cry of need from the lives  of others. He gives heavenly help, and lies on the roadside beaten and bruised. He is the Mighty God come to save, and the fragile baby who cries from a manger needing nurtured, soothed, cared for, provided for and loved.

May you and I discern the presence of  “The God-Man” this Christmas and always.

God bless

Kenny

 

2 comments on “Christmas: God on both sides of the equation…

  1. Angela says:

    A young Church of England curate obtained a position at the church I attended.
    Over time, he enjoyed Sunday dinners with us and got to know us better.
    My then husband lied pathologically, stole from friends, gambled compulsively and struggled to retain faith never mind overcome his strongholds.
    When you are a mother of four with such a husband, your own faith is tested and God is found right with you.
    “Why do you have to spiritualise everything?!” was a remark made by the young curate on one occasion, to me.
    You, Kenny, have described what the Lord was doing for me; never forsaking me, tending my wounds, enabling, revealing His glory in ways I needed.
    We all know that trials produce fruit if we trust in the Lord through them rather than escaping them. Lord, give us eyes to see and ears to hear in every circumstance.
    God rest ye merry, gentlemen….
    (Merry meant strong/valiant when that carol was written!)

    Like

  2. Donald Black says:

    No coincidence that as soon as I finished reading this article I turned to read my ” Our Daily Bread reading” 21/12/18. Paragraph 2of the comment was, “On earth Jesus is both God and man.” My spirit rejoiced as I believed this was a God moment for me. Also my attention was arrested by Luke 2 v 52 , which was a part of the reading for ODB for today, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. It was the point of “with God and man” that caught my attention. Only the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Blows ones mind.

    Like

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