The Twentieth Day of Advent
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.
2 Peter 1:3-4
It’s one of my favorite Christmas stories, “The Visited Planet”, by English Bible scholar and translator J. B. Phillips. He weaves a wondrous story about Christmas from an angel’s viewpoint. It begins “once upon a time” as a very young angel is being shown around the glories and splendors of universes by a senior, seasoned angel. Soon the young angel gets bored with whirling galaxies, blazing stars, infinite light-year distances, and interstellar spaces reaching forever and ever.
Then the two angels come to a very average-looking star we call our sun, along with its circling planets. The senior angel gets quiet, pointing toward a small, insignificant looking ball turning on its axis. “I want you to watch that one particularly,” the senior angel instructs.
“Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” the young angel says doubtfully. “What is so special about that one?” Then he listens in stunned amazement as the senior angel explains how that small, insignificant, not overly clean orb is the famous Visited Planet.
“Do you mean to tell me that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?” “I do,” the senior angel counters. “And I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For strange as it may seem to us, He actually loves them!” The angel pauses, and then in a most serious voice declares: “He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.”
With those words the senior angel captures the meaning of the Incarnation: God came down to us to lift us up to Him!” Or, as Athanasius said, “He became what we are that we might become what He is.” (Athanasius, The Incarnation of the Word) Today’s Scripture declares how God gives us precious and very great promises of how we “may become participants in the divine nature”, or how we will be made like Him. We will actually “share in God’s essential nature” (J. B. Phillips Translation), and have “tickets to participation in the life of God” (The Message). Stop and think about it for a moment! God shares in our life that we might become:
…’Participants of the Divine nature.’ These are bold words, and may be so understood as to excite the wildest and most presumptuous dreams. But bold as they are, and startling as they may sound to us, they are only putting into other language the teaching of which the whole New Testament is full, that men may and do, by their faith, receive into their spirits a real communication of the life of God. What else does the language about being ‘the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty’ mean? (Alexander Maclaren, The Epistles of I and II Peter and John)
Today’s Scripture marks the promised fulfillment of God’s purpose for humanity which He set forth on the Bible’s first page: “Let us make humankind in our image; according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). In this God calls us to be more than just good people, more than holy angels. God calls us to share in His very life! By the Spirit of God living in us we transcend ourselves and live in the life of God’s Son.
The apostle John marvels at God’s love for us, a love that mystifies even the angels: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1). Caught up in awe and wonder the apostle John continues: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
No wonder the young angel in our story is so mystified! God comes down to “The Visited Planet” to lift us up to Him!
- How would you explain being “participants of the divine nature” to a group of children?
- What does being a participant of the divine nature say to you about God’s love for you?
- Take a few moments to ask God’s Spirit to help you better know and experience what it means for you to be a participant of the divine nature.
EMBODIED PRAYER: LYING DOWN
We spend a lot of time lying down, which makes this posture of prayer a favorite of many. I do some of my best praying lying down between two and three in the morning. Like their contemporaries, Jesus and His disciples ate Passover lying down, symbolic of being free and no longer slaves in Egypt. Lying down embodies rest and peace, our lives secure in God. David wrote in the Psalms: “I will both lie down and sleep in peace: for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety“ (Psalm 4:8). David liked to think of God while lying down and talking with Him: “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:5-6).
Lying down is symbolic of knowing ourselves cared for by God: “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). When we are fretful and anxious, God wants us to lie down and experience our rest and safety in Him.
Today, and every day (and night) of the Second Week of Advent pray the Lord’s Prayer while lying down. As you pray let yourself go into God’s strong hands.