When You Need to Remember You Are Loved
Advent Reflections: the second Sunday
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her the she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. Isaiah 40:1–2
The Lord God said to the serpent… I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15
Isn’t this image beautiful?
There’s something deeply moving about these two iconic, female figures meeting face to face.
On one side, there’s Eve, ashamed and embarrassed. She hides her face and lowers her eyes; apple clutched in guilty hand, feet hopelessly entangled in the snare of the snake.
Haven’t we all been children of Eve? Tripped up and trapped, listening to voices that have promised us life, only to deliver us death. Caught out with the apple our hand — the taste of its last bite still on our lips — poisonous shame seeping its way down into our soul.
Haven’t we all had moments of avoiding eye-contact, wanting the ground to open up and swallow us, desperate to run away from the shame and sorrow for all the ways we’ve fallen and failed?
Alone and afraid, we are left with our deepest question:
Who will love me now?
On the other side of the picture, stands Mary. She tilts her head towards Eve, as though trying to meet her gaze. With one tender hand, she touches Eve’s cheek to comfort her.
There is hope for you, Eve. All is not lost.
With her other hand, Mary takes Eve’s hand in her own, and places it on her belly, both of them feeling the tension and kick of the new baby underneath. They touch the mystery and wonder and hope of the redemption and reconciliation that is about to be birthed.
Perhaps most telling of all is Mary’s bare foot, crushing the head of the snake.
Eve, you are no longer cursed, you are blessed. You are no longer trapped, you’re free. You are no longer lost, but found. You are loved. You always were, even on your darkest days, and you always will be.
Omid Safi writes that ‘There is no way of getting to God without starting with and going through our own, messy and beautiful humanity.’
That is the story the incarnation tells. It is the story of God, who chooses to go through the mess and beauty of a human birth and a human experience, so he could be with us, right where we are.
Isn’t that what someone who really loves us would do? Show up and stay, even when it’s hard; help carry our burdens, even when they’re heavy; listen to our stories over and over again, bearing witness to our pain, our joys, our sadness and celebrations; do whatever is within their power to make things right for us.
God is love because God came to be with us. He doesn’t wait for conditions to be perfect. He doesn’t wait for us to get it all together. He doesn’t wait until we’re calm and sensible and ready to listen.
He comes now.
In this moment.
Just as we are.
This love of God starts as a tiny seed planted inside those who, like Mary, will make room for him. It grows and grows and grows until we are stretched wide, ‘filled with all the fullness of God,’ until we can’t contain it anymore.
And all that compassion and mercy and beauty and light spill out, all over everything we touch — all those broken places in ourselves and in others, and in our world — touched and healed and made whole with the tender loving kindness of our God, Immanuel.
This is the second post in my Advent series. You can read the rest here:
- The First Sunday: When You Need to Find the Unexpected, Beautiful Gifts of Waiting
- The Third Sunday: When You Need to Find Your Way Back to Joy
- The Fourth Sunday: When You Need to Find Calm in the Chaos