Sitting in the courtyard of the San Luis Rey mission, I’m thinking about Advent and the incarnation. The courtyard is steeped in that hybrid California/Mexico beauty: stucco archways painting curved shadows on the walls, a fountain mumbling its watery song, potted lime trees, the mottled red of sun-bleached tile, piano notes stuttering down the halls, December sunshine warming my feet and ankles.
I’ve been reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water recently, so I’m also thinking about how both the annunciation and the incarnation are echoed in the making of art (“Here I am. Enflesh me.”).
It’s a beautiful and strange metaphor to call Jesus the Word. I take this to mean that in the person of Jesus, God’s promises and stories are particularized, enfleshed. God speaks God into being in Mary’s body, and God now speaks us into life. He is a word, an answer; the response to all of our longings and aches. The Word spoke in parables and shared the way to life through language. As a writer, of course I love this.
This Advent I’ve reread Luke 1 and Mary’s Magnificat. How would it have felt to be Mary, carrying God inside her—terrifying, immensely comforting? Both, I imagine. Maybe she felt invincible, and maybe suffocatingly vulnerable, walking around with God taking up space in her own flesh. What is incredible—seems even implausible—is that those who follow Jesus are said to carry the same gift: God residing in our bodies.
“Nothing will be impossible with God,” Gabrielle says to Mary. I stick on that phrase: nothing will be impossible with God, not for God. This choice of grammar seems important, because it gives Mary—and by extension, all people—agency and participation in the work of God. When we are with God, nothing is impossible. When Mary hears this she assents and gives herself over. But I also love that God comes to her first and waits for her yes. He invites her to participate in the creation of something beautiful; he chooses not to do it without her.
My most-repeated prayer is nabbed from the words of poet Mary Szybist: “What I want is what I’ve always wanted. What I want is to be changed.”
For years I’ve prayed for transformation. What I want is to be healed and made new, a process so long and subtle that I often don’t believe it’s happening, and so I repeat the same words again. Recently, though, I can feel healing taking place in my body, as though plates deep inside me are shifting and settling into a more solid foundation. There’ve been a series of events this fall that I can point to: prayers spoken over me, a particular sermon (that I recommend everyone listen to, right now!), and vision to see that I’ve been begging for healing while pushing God away out of fear.
With this shift at the ground floor of my being, I’m starting to sink into very old truths that feel new: God is only good. He heals, he transforms, he brings new life from nothing. I don’t have to bully or badger God into changing me. That is the whole promise of the life of faith: that Jesus resides inside us, bringing forth wholeness and healing. As we consent to the Word taking up residence in our bodies, we are changed.
So here I am, thankful and expectant this Advent (and really running with this pregnancy/incarnation motif). I have a sense of being filled and prepared. Words are piling up in the eaves, nudging me to enflesh them. Old wounds are closing. The Word is teaching me to speak a new language.