Mike’s Meditations: Experience God in the Ordinariness of Life

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God chose to be in union with you and me. It was His decision.

“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8 NAB).

We see words here describing Jesus as “emptied himself,” “humbled” and “slave.” Again, he willingly and deliberately chose to do this. Humility was a slave virtue in Jesus’ time. While we know this Jesus was divine, he also was a slave, which expresses his refusal of any self-elevation or importance. The slave in Jesus’ time was one who absolutely had no rights.

God not only wanted to be in union with human beings, He wanted to do it in the most basic of ways. He was God, the highest form of all beings and chose to be a human in the lowest form – that of a slave – someone with no importance – someone with no rights. While Jesus did not have a human master, he always made the Father his master.  And, like a slave, he came into the world in less than an ordinary way. Rather than picture his birthplace as the homely stable we see in movies and pictures, try to imagine the reality of his entry into our human world.

The stable or cave seemed to have straw and a manger. It was a place where livestock lived. It would have been filled with animal waste. There would have been  the constant terrible smell that goes with such a scene. Flies and other bugs buzzing around. Mary, Joseph and any one else would have had to watch where they stepped. Within a short distance, they probably could see people’s homes that were clean and warm. Yet, they were outside with the animals and weather. And their first visitors were the lowly shepherds – some of whom may have been slaves themselves.

Surely, God is making some important point to us in all of this. He not only longed to be united with us so much that he came to live as a human with us, but he wanted to do it in the most humble of ways. I think one lesson we can take from this is that God wanted us to experience Him in the ordinariness of our lives. Not only in the ornate churches, the ritual of the sacraments and in His real presence in the liturgy; but also in our everyday comings and goings – He wants to be in union with us in everything we do.

This is how we can experience Incarnation: to experience God in all we do – even in the most ordinary events of daily life. By His Incarnation in Jesus, God united Himself with every woman and man. Because that union continues today (we are temples of the Holy Spirit 1 Cor 3:16), Incarnation continues today.

Jesus, who is fully God, came to live with us and to show us how to live as human beings. Today, you and I are called, as God’s temples, to bring God to the world around us. Or, put another way, we are called to be Incarnation to those around us. When we bring the Jesus in us to someone else, we are bringing God in flesh to someone else. If we are to truly be the missionary disciples we are called to be, we experience and minister to this Jesus within ourselves and in others – all within our ordinary lives. As we do this, Incarnation happens in the ordinary world just like it did when Jesus was born.

As we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, heal the sick, shelter the homeless and welcome the refugee, pray for those who are hurting, forgive 70 times seven times, smile at the lonely or encourage the depressed – in all of this we are being Incarnation.

This Advent and Christmas might be a good time to daily ask ourselves: How am I being called to Incarnate Jesus today in my ordinary life?

Mike Van Vranken is a spiritual director, author, speaker and teacher. You can contact him at mikevanvranken@comcast.net

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