Take a moment to become still, aware of God’s presence, and then pray:
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we long to know yet more of your boundless love and grace. Beyond the written word we seek the living Word, Jesus. Reveal to us by Your Spirit the glories of Your incarnate Son so that we might more perfectly love and follow Him. Amen
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
In his poem, “How the Great Guest Came”, American poet Edwin Markham tells of the incarnate Son of God’s oneness with humanity. It is a story about Conrad, a kindly cobbler, and how the Lord appears to him one morning with the promise, “I’m coming your guest to be.”
So Conrad springs to the day, eagerly preparing for the Great Guest’s coming. He scrubs the floor, polishes the counter, and spreads a generous table while keeping an eye on the front door. But he was never so busy in preparation for the Great Guest that he did not attend to three strangers who knocked on his door: a cold beggar, a hungry woman, and a homeless waif.
Conrad’s day came and went, ebbing down to the end, and the Great Guest had not come. Confused and sadly disappointed, Conrad knelt to pray: “What is it Lord, that your feet delay? Did you forget that this was the day?”
Then, in his heart, Conrad heard the Great Guest speak: “Three times I came to your friendly door / Three times my shadow was on your floor / I was the beggar with the bruised feet / I was the woman you gave to eat / I was the homeless child on the homeless street.”
Like the Great Guest speaks to Conrad, so He speaks to us in today’s scripture: “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Jesus promises that what we do for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the prisoner, we are really doing for Him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer observes that:
“He has become like a man, so that men should be like him. In the Incarnation the whole human race recovers the dignity of the image of God. Henceforth, any attack even on the least is an attack on Christ, who took the form of man, and in his own Person restored the image of God in all that bears a human form…The incarnate Lord makes his followers the brothers of all mankind.”(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics)
It might be tempting in these times of pandemic, social unrest, and holiday busyness to forget our responsibilities to others. Yet, as followers of the Great Guest, we know we are not to run from the world but to seek His presence in it. “The Incarnation is the ultimate reason why the service of God cannot be divorced from the service of man.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship) The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, teaching us: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Virginia Stems Owens writes about her experience of the Incarnation as she cared for an ailing friend:
“As I struggle to insert the purple swollen foot of a diabetic into his slipper, I am also asserting my allegiance to the flesh, loved and not rejected by our Lord, who did not hesitate at the unhealthy, the flesh he clothed his own glory in, thus sanctifying it forever.”(Virginia Stem Owen, A Hand in the Wound)
This is the glory and the grandeur of the Incarnation, of God taking on our humanity. Jesus confronts us in each person we meet. As we share in Christ, so we share in and see Christ in each other.
Think back over the past 24 hours and note when you experienced a “high” and a “low”. Share with God how the humanity of Jesus might speak to you in what you experienced.