This is the reflection for Advent 3 from the Henri Nouwen Society. It is taken from his book Adam’s Story.
“Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn’t cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness” (see Matt. 5:3-11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace.
Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.
In Adam’s name I say to you, “Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected.”
This time of year is magnificent. It is easy to become distracted and focus our attention only to places of beauty, power, and prestige. Yet as we ready ourselves for the Prince of Peace we are reminded that God takes on incarnational reality in the weakness of a child. This Child of Grace would go on to live a life that bore witness to being incarnational in all moments. That is to say that as Jesus embraced the poor, God journeyed to the poor. As Jesus embraced the weak, God journeyed to the weak. As Jesus embraced the rejected, God journeyed to the rejected. The consumer driven world in which we live is constantly selling us the idea that power and privilege and influence are by-products of accumulation. Buy the right cloths, the right car, the right technology and you will be powerful. What Nouwen reminds us all of is the radical nature of the covenant that in which we are living. We are a people of God who have been chosen by the One who is journeying toward us and embracing us with all of our weakness and all of our vulnerability. We have agreed to seek after Jesus, loving the Prince of Peace in all persons as we wish to be loved. We have agreed that there should be dignity for ALL of God’s people, not just the ones who can afford it, not just those who own the right stuff or poses the best jobs. We have covenanted to assemble as God’s people in our vulnerability and be God’s people imperfect as we are.
If we intend to embrace peace, we must embrace our vulnerability and our weakness. What is more we have to travel to the places of weakness and brokenness in order that we may be incarnational in the practice of our faith. Who needs us this week to be the incarnational presence of Christ? Where can we go to bring God to a moment of weakness? How can we embrace the poor, the weak and the lonely?