I have read many wonderful reflections during this first week of Lent. Unfortunately, I grew up in a faith tradition that largely ignored the Christian calendar, even Lent. The good news is that I have seen that changing in recent years. As for me, it has been nice to read the Lenten prayers, reflections and meditations of others. It is as if they are filling in the gaps for me left by my upbringing. And so, encouraged by these examples, I thought I would chip in my two cents worth. Here is my first ever Lenten reflection.

In the beginning God not only displays His power and creativity, He also demonstrates His love by drawing intimately near to His creation. With the creation of man His creation is complete, but His work is not finished. Most importantly, his nearness does not wane. God continues to draw close to man, parading the creatures in front of him to be named. And even after He creates the woman, bringing about the full community of humanity, He is still there drawing near to them.

However, in the midst of such serenity calamity strikes. Humanity rebels against God and suddenly senses their own vulnerability. In their guilt they attempt to cover themselves and, most tragically, they hid themselves from the presence of God. But again, God’s nearness does not wane. Instead He draws near and reorders the situation. He gives them new boundaries to live by and a God-given covering for their newfound shame.

Time and time again we see this theme throughout the bible. Humanity continues to make devastating choices that bring dire consequences. All hope appears to be lost. But at just the moment that we want to give up on the situation God shows up in the most shocking ways. He renews His nearness with His people, even uses their sinful mistakes to bring about His love-filled plan of redemption. The whole routine leaves us with wonder: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him (Psalm 8:4)?

When we arrive at the New Testament the story offers its most outrageous development. God humbles Himself, takes on the flesh of humanity, and dwells among us. He does not come in radiant splendor, but in the likeness of a humble servant. And most surprising of all, we now know that God’s nearness not only comes to us, but also comes through us.

The story continues to twist and turn with surprising developments. Yet, God’s nearness, once again, never wanes. As we reach the end we get a promising glimpse of God’s final plan, and by now we should not be surprised. “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them” (Revelation 21:4). Thus, the scriptures begin and end with the same simple message: Immanuel, God With Us. 

We are called to embody this same fundamental message. That is, we are called to draw near to the lost and broken, to be the gift of God wrapped in flesh. We are the body of Christ, the embodiment of God–one of the most profoundly mysterious statements in all of Scripture. We bring hope into the world, into the lives of hopeless people. A hope that the story is not finished. A hope that God is not only real, but surprisingly close and full of love.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5