Immaculate Perception

Life Notes—December 23, 2010

“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great…’”  Luke 1:31-32a

 The past four weeks I have focused on the four themes of Advent.  The first theme is Hope.  The second is Peace.  The third, Joy; and the fourth, Love.  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  It is too-true that each of these themes has one or more cheap and all-too-common imitations.  For Hope the cheap imitation may be wishing.  For Peace it is the type of silence that is quiet on the surface, but churns below.  Joy is often confused with happiness, and Love with lust. 

The Christmas story tells of an Immaculate Conception.  Mary was impregnated, not by man, but by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus was conceived pure and sinless.  He was fully human, yet more than human.  While some argue the details of the birth of Christ, let us consider Immaculate Conception.  What distinguishes love from lust, or hope from wishing, or joy from happiness?  I suggest it involves impregnation by Spirit.  Earthly bodies can be created from materials of the earth; but they cannot be animated, or brought to life.  That requires Spirit.  Lust is something of the earth longing for something else of the earth.  Love will not settle for the temporary satisfactions of lust because true love is conceived and animated by the Spirit—Love demands more.  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love prosper where earth and Spirit unite, as they came together in the birth and life of Jesus. 

That which is immaculately conceived requires time and attention to grow and develop, like a new-born child. All things worth treasuring are impregnated by the Spirit; things like Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The shortcoming of things of the earth is they will forever be things of the earth. When they are animated by Spirit they take on the characteristics of the eternal. Recognizing animation by the Spirit requires Immaculate Perception. It is how we distinguish between the real deal and the cheap imitation. When we know, invite and celebrate the Spirit intersecting in our lives, our everyday lives become reborn deeper and richer, although others may ‘see’ nothing different. When we allow the Spirit to enter and animate our lives—as did a humble, teenage girl centuries ago—the earthly unites with the eternal in us. With Mary we say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) 

There will be five services this Christmas Eve.  Life communion and candlelight service is at 11:00 PM in Brady Hall.  A traditional service will be in the sanctuary at 7:00. There will be family services at 4:00 and 5:30 at the west campus, with a contemporary communion service at 7:00.  This Sunday’s worship services will be at 9:00 west and 10:00 downtown. 

Come home to worship this Christmas.  Don’t settle for a cheap imitation…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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