born in community
Katie Guertin-AndersonSpiritual Life Director | L’Arche Tahoma Hope
“Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
From John 1:(1-9), 10-18
Tell me your birth story.
If you are someone who has birthed a baby, you have heard this question countless times from friends, family, and even strangers. It’s a question full of curiosity and wonder at how a life almost impossibly enters into the world. We cannot help but want to know how life begins: pleasurable or painful, terrifying or tranquil. That blessed moment that a baby bursts forth from the darkness and protection of the womb and into the messiness of life on the outside is nothing short of astonishing and heaving with mystery.
The prologue from John is unlike anything else we find in the other gospels. It is a birth story, but in this version, there are no shepherds, angels, mangers, or even a baby. It is the second time during the seasons of Advent and Christmas that we encounter this text. As is the case with all great mysteries, it’s worth a second look, and maybe a third and a fourth too.
I love Eugene Peterson’s contemporary translation of verse 14 in The Message: “The Word was made flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” This makes me think about our neighborhoods in our beloved city. It makes me curious. I want to know. Where do you see the Word-made-flesh being born in your neighborhood?
I serve a community, L’Arche Tahoma Hope, in South Tacoma. According to John, the Word was made flesh and blood and moved into my neighborhood, off Vickery Ave. and 120th St.
L’Arche Tahoma Hope is an intentional, spiritual community of people, with and without intellectual disabilities, sharing life together. Many of us live in homes together; we eat together, pray together, celebrate together, and do laundry together. We strive for mutuality in our relationships with one another, knowing that we are all vulnerable and have the capacity to both hurt and heal one another. Yes, it is a place where I have been born, yet again.
At L’Arche, those with intellectual disabilities are at the center of community (“core members”). As we deepen in relationship with one another, many of us come to recognize our own woundedness. But as we work together in authentic relationships, we find tremendous grace, forgiveness, and belonging in community, and become more compassionate, loving, incarnational human beings. The Word-made-flesh is undeniably present here in South Tacoma, giving birth to new life.
God didn’t see fit to simply to hover over creation, trusting we could figure it out, hoping and praying we would take care of one another. John tells us this birth story to remind us that Jesus was not just born a refugee in the straw and mud of a stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. John’s poetic, mystical rendering of the birth of the Word tells us that God became one of us – skin and blood, bone and body – and God was sent with Love, by Love, to be in community with us.
This to me is good news. God lives and breathes, walks and wheels, cries and laughs among us, in my very own neighborhood. Do we see him? Do we hear her? Have we noticed them in our own neighborhood?
I am grateful and relieved that we don’t have to guess what it looks like to love our neighbors. The life of Jesus – who he touched, ate with, washed, blessed; who he showed compassion towards, defended, resisted – tells us everything we need to know about how we, too, are called to be bearers and birthers of the Word-made-flesh in our own neighborhoods.
Tell me your birth story. I’ll tell you mine. Perhaps together we will discover yet another and be born again, again.
Dwelling Among Us
Is there a word or phrase stands out to you? What is it calling forth?
Describe your neighborhood. How is God moving in and giving birth to new life? How are you being born again, again?
Walk around your neighborhood. Then walk around another neighborhood – maybe one you don’t know well, or one you tend to avoid. Pay attention to signs of new life, or the need for it. In each noticing bow and offer a simple, silent blessing and pray this prayer: Emmanuel, born in the neighborhood, come. May we be born again, again.