Jesus, Christmas and the Gospel of Recovery
This time of year you might hear or read these words from John’s Gospel:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:14
I work at my recovery from a Christian framework, so I suppose most of my life I’ve heard, read or even preached on these words. But in these latter years I’ve come to see in them four elements both of Christian spirituality and healthy recovery.
“The Word became flesh.”In a breathtaking move of eternal commitment, the Divine Being—or the personal expression of the Divine Being—became a human being (too).
In my recovery this means that Jesus absolutely gets what it’s like to live in my head and move in my skin. In a mysterious way, all the things I’ve struggled with and all the things I wish I could forget about my life are intimately known to God. Not a God above and judging me, but a God down in the ruts with me.
“Dwelt among us.”He became one of us and lived among us. Not above, not aloof; among. And—this is important—not just with me; with us. All of us.
In my recovery I’ve reluctantly come to understand that if I’m to find healing, it won’t be in isolation. Oh, I pray “God please change me” for sure. And God is answering that prayer. He is changing me. But in community. With and among others. What he does, he does among us.
“We have seen his Glory.”Weightiness. Heavy. Dense and drawing. Mesmerizing. Think black holes in the mystery of the depths of space. Burning stars sending light across vast distances. John is saying they were more than attracted to Jesus. They were drawn, pulled in by his irresistible Presence.
In my recovery lots of tools and strategies have been helpful, essential even. But ultimately, I needed a deeper affection to replace my addiction. Something deeper than life itself to pull me from my false self to my True Self.
“Full of Grace and Truth.”Grace that says you’re loved no matter what and truth that says let’s all be honest about who we are.
In my recovery I needed the truth about me, both the lies of my life and choices and the truth of my genuine identity. I needed the truth about how life works, or can work, because I couldn’t make it work. And I needed the truth about God, too, because there are a lot of lies in religion.
I also needed grace, because only the mercy of extravagant and unearnable love could give me the desire and ability to face and apply the truth. Only together could grace and truth give me what I needed to become honest and surrender, not to become lovable but to yield to the embrace of unimaginable belonging.
In the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah, there are four intriguing passages about the “Servant of Yahweh.” In Christian spirituality Jesus is the ultimate expression of Yahweh’s Servant.
Among the things Isaiah says about this Servant is this line: “a bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench.”
He sees our failures and knows our frailties. He’s not put off by the smell of our selfishness or the smallness of our aspirations. He wants us. He pursues us. And he helps us find the path to so much more.
This is the Gospel of Recovery, right there in the beginning of John’s gospel.
And this Gospel is for you. Are you willing to surrender to such mysterious, life-changing love? tcr