Advent Reflection: The Ancient Relay

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus, John 8:12

The clearest revelation of the nature of God arrived in the most unexpected fashion. There was no writing in the sky nor blinding lights… God’s revelation came as a human baby. A living, breathing, flesh and blood human being, who experienced all the joy and difficulty and frailty of being human.

This baby grew up to be an unremarkable human in an obscure pocket of the Roman Empire. And yet… he was remarkable in another way. He touched lepers and healed the sick and spoke words of grace to broken-hearted people. He cooked fish on the shore for his hungry friends, he washed their stinking feet, he graciously endured (and corrected) their interminable whining. He was remarkable in claiming “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (God). Remarkable in confronting hypocrisy, in courage, in integrity. Remarkable in teaching of love, even for one’s enemies and persecutors Remarkable in praying for forgiveness for his torturers while being executed in an excruciating fashion.

When God revealed love to humankind, it was not miraculously written in the sky; nor was it a series of spoken or written abstractions. It was a very particular person doing very particular deeds, especially with and among his closest friends. Following the death and resurrection and ascension of this particular person, a relay of love continued through those his life had touched most deeply.

Those who followed Jesus met together, prayed for one another, shared their lives with one another, shared their food and their possessions with one another. They tended the sick, made clothes for the poor, rescued and raised as their own baby girls thrown away to die. The flame of love was passed from one soul to another, like a candle lighting ceremony on a breathtaking scale. Within a few centuries, this small number of people touched by the light of Christ’s love began a revolution. Literally millions of people became followers of this Way, this Person, this Light, this Love.

This relay has always been deeply personal: one soul to another, to another, to another. It can be written about abstractly on blogs, passed around in a Facebook meme, spoken (or shouted) about on a television program or radio show. But all of these things are always a step removed from the reality of this Light. This relay has always been a transaction via the heart. It is mediated in deep listening, in cooking a meal for a friend, in caring for the children of another, in helping the sick, in giving money, in mowing a lawn… in a thousand and one acts of care and thoughtfulness that keep the relay of love alive. And sometimes in that care, there may be an even more remarkable transaction: the filament that runs between one soul and another becomes illuminated with light, and this light fills the heart of another in a profound way. The love and life of the Spirit transforms another human being. The ancient relay of love gains a new champion. Another soul is indwelt by the loving Spirit who brings light and love and transformation within.

There are look-alike substitutes for this Light: there are good deeds motivated by guilt or obligation or the desire to please or the desire to feel good about oneself. There is religion, good intentions, positive thinking. But the real deal… the real Light of this world… is revealed when the loving Spirit of Christ invades the heart and soul of a willing human being. I hope to be a channel of such extraordinary blessing in the lives of those around me this Christmas season and always... how about you?


Lucy J said…
Thanks, Janet, I love your concept of the "Ancient Relay"! Mystical and practical participation, bringing light into dark places... into the deep caverns of the human heart and through our nearest neighbourhoods, into the wide expanses of the created world!

Just one little old thing upon which I beg to slightly differ, though... According to the Gospel of Luke, there were some supernatural phenomena (bright lights, heavenly choirs etc) at the time of Christ's au natural incarnation... Luke 2:8-18... terrifying blazing glory, angelic crowd of choristers, astonished marvelment... let's keep heart pondering and mind wondering... if the Light of the World could live, move, be in us all, there would be much more "pay forward" than "pay back" and the world would be a much "lighter" place!
Janet Woodlock said…
Very true Lucy! Though I guess one could say the shepherds were the only witnesses of the angel choir, and they were "unimportant" people in that society... which I guess is part of the whole point of the "upside down" kingdom Luke writes about.

Light and lighter... yes, it's true.

(Excuse my slow reply, my computer gobbled up my last attempt somehow!)
Lucy J said…
Well, Janet, you've got my mind boggling now!... Were the shepherds the only ones? Perhaps so or perhaps NO? They are the only ones mentioned, but does that mean that others didn't see or hear anything? Maybe like when Jesus was baptised some heard some rumblings n thunderings while others heard a voice and saw something like a dove... or something???

I think it's that "upside down" factor at work, like you mentioned. Even these days with the incredible communications technology etc, if somebody experiences something phenomenal in terms of God communicating, it's still open to interpretation by others and incumbent on the person "witnessing" the event to communicate it to their friends or others so the word gets around one by one. Maybe it's faster these days... but oftentimes not... I love that God still has the handle on MYSTERY!!!
Janet Woodlock said…
You're right that we only know what the gospel writers thought worth recording... and Luke is the only gospel writer who thought the tale of shepherds was worth recording.

God's revelation comes in millions of ways in millions of stories. But these stories, like love itself, are not abstract things but are deeply personal... God revealing grace to one precious person at a time.

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