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"The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish."  
John 1:14, The Message

“He keeps popping up! He is there when I pull into the parking lot with groceries and offers to help carry them up to my apartment. And he seems to leave to catch the shuttle bus to campus the same time I do every day!” My good friend was talking about this guy from her calculus class who had moved into her apartment complex after the summer break. She didn’t think he was creepy, but was just becoming aware that he was always around.

“I think he’s trying to get your attention. Sounds like he’s trying to let you know he’s available and interested in having the two of you get to know each other better,” was my reply to my friend. I don’t know if my comment made the difference or not, but she began to be intrigued by his attention. The result? The two of them have been happily married for many decades!

Thomas Keating, the Cistercian abbot and Roman Catholic priest who helped pioneer Centering Prayer[1] in the late 20th century, has been quoted as saying, “The essential meaning of the Incarnation is that God is available.”[2] God is available. God has “moved into the neighborhood.” Jesus, the baby born in a barn, the incarnate one, is Emmanuel, God-who-is-with-us. The same Jesus who, in saying farewell to His closest followers, promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

With this baby’s birth, God was not just signaling God’s availability to a people in a back-water Mediterranean outpost of the far-flung Roman Empire 2,000 years ago and only for the 33 years of this “baby’s” life. No, God telegraphed to us God’s desire to live continually among us.

How is this Emmanuel manifested in our own time? Through the continued work of the Holy Spirit within the Body of Christ, the Church (Acts 1:8); through our adoption as sons and daughters of the Holy One (Romans 8:15-17); through the engrafting of each person into the Divine Vine through baptism (John 15:1-8); through the loving and caring attention to those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick or in prison (Matthew 25:35-36); through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the ongoing life of the Trinity in our midst, it is the followers of this baby born long ago who manifest the presence of God in the world today, a world in as much need of ‘God-with-us’ as it was two thousand years ago.

[1] See for more information on this particular practice of prayer.
[2] Quote from a presentation made about Fr. Thomas Keating and attributed to him.
The Rev. Sharron L. Cox
Associate for Outreach, Pastoral Care and Women's Ministries
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