Advent Reflection: Our With-ness is Our Witness
Dr. Stephen Macchia (MDiv ’83, DMin ’01)
This blog originally appeared on Leadership Transformations.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1: 1,2) The incarnation is God’s gift to us—the with-ness of the life of Jesus, promised prophetically for generations, came to live among us.
Emmanuel: God is With Us.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28) The angelic visitation to Mary assures her of the with-ness of God and the with-ness of the Spirit of God, in the forthcoming arrival of the mysterious and miraculous Christ child.
Jesus: God is For Us.
At the first nativity, not only were Mary and Joseph present, but soon there came shepherds who were visited by the heavenly host who appeared with the angel, praising God and announcing the Savior’s humble birth. They hurriedly went to Bethlehem to see this miracle that the Lord told them about.
Shepherds: God is With Us and For Us.
The shepherd’s with-ness at the birthplace of Jesus solidified their witness, for the shepherds responded by “spreading the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2: 17,18)
What was true then is true today. Our with-ness is our witness. When we are with God in worship or in creation, we speak of God’s promises and beauty. He is for us and offers his fullness to us. When we are with God in prayer, we offer our praises as we are assured of his attentiveness. When we are with God and among his people, we give voiced witness to our shared life of worship, love, and service.
However, when we are not with God, our witness is imperiled. We may speak of God “out there” but not out of an intimate with-ness. When we are not spending time with God, our witness is paled, lacking depth, perhaps merely a faint memory of old. He seems distant from us and no longer for us.
The same is true among the people of God. What right do we have to bear witness about those we have never shared a meaningful with-ness? Such words become gossip, assumption, judgment, or prejudice. What do we make of such witness: believe it to be true or question it’s veracity?
To say we bear witness without with-ness rings shallow at best. But, when we are with and for another, meaningfully connected to each other, sitting side-by-side, arm-in-arm, or better yet face-to-face, then we have invested enough to bear witness to the truth of another. Spoken without judgment or condemnation, choosing instead to honor and affirm.
In this [time] before Christmas let me encourage you to be with God and also to be with others. Fully with and for one another. Lending a listening ear. Offering an eye of compassion. Speaking a word of love. Sharing a helping hand. And then bearing witness to what you experience in your with-ness.
With credit to Dave Friedrich, pastor of Church of the Cross, Boston MA, I close with the following poem by Malcolm Guite, entitled O Emmanuel.
by Malcolm Guite
O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.
In the coming days, as you approach Christmas with family and friends, may you cling to the desire of God to be with you, and in return I pray you will choose with-ness and intimacy for the sake of your soul and for the good of others.
In with-ness and witness of joy in the Incarnate Jesus, who came to be with us and who sacrificed himself to demonstrate that he’s for us.
A grateful disciple of Jesus
Rev. Dr. Stephen Macchia, is Adjunct Professor and Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple Building, overseeing the Center’s initiatives on all of our campuses. Dr. Macchia also serves as Founding President of Leadership Transformations, Inc., a ministry devoted to developing leadership in church and parachurch ministry settings with a strong emphasis on the spiritual formation of leaders and teams.