Christmas 2013

“…the Word became flesh…”
John 1:14

Frederick Buechner tells of being asked for a “self-authenticating religious experience.”  I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry as he recounts his mind racing…

“There are the things I have already mentioned – the monastery visit, the great laughter sermon, the apple tree branches.  They all really happened…and the dream of writing the name on the bar.  I really dreamed it.”  (The Alphabet of Grace, p 47)

My ambivalence (Should I laugh?  Should I cry?) isn’t disrespect or deprecation – it’s identification at his embarrassment over the puniness and haphazardness of that which has called him to faith.

I don’t claim for a moment to have Buechner’s insight into faith and I assuredly lack his writing skill, but in our confusingly paradoxical convictions about faith, we are assuredly siblings. 

Like Buechner, I’ve never had anything approaching a “self-authenticating religious experience” (and like Buechner, I can’t imagine where there’d be room for me in such a place), but I’m filled with faith regardless.

And Christmas (even more than Easter!) is where I find myself backed into a corner out of which I cannot (and do not want to) escape. 

 “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

To be honest, even though I’ve tried, I can make no rational sense of John’s assertion.  But as assuredly as I am puzzled by it, I am arrested by it…and it keeps me coming back again and again.

That perhaps is my prayer for each of you – friends and colleagues in this work of serving the church.  I pray there will be a moment where you find yourself arrested by something over which you have no power.  If it happens…let it happen.  It may be in that place of powerlessness that God will come to you – Immanuel.

Blessings and joy – Christmas joy – to you and those with whom you share love!

—Rich Pleva, Conference Minister of United Church of Christ in Iowa


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