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The word as guest

By December 16, 2015 One Comment

Maybe it’s the end of the semester, maybe it’s recent national and world events, maybe it’s the year I’ve had, but some days, too, I feel like I’m more eager for the new Star Wars than any holiday celebrations.

The good news, however, is that Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with me or my preparation (or my lack thereof).  It brought to mind for me the Denise Levertov poem (below). Levertov reminds us that it’s not the seasonal sparkles that prepare us to have the Word as guest. Just the opposite: the bleaker the circumstances, the brighter the gift.  Our houses may look pretty (and go ahead and decorate if it increases your joy), but thanks be to God that the incarnation happens despite the unfortunate condition of our hearts.

On the Mystery of the Incarnation, by Denise Levertov

It’s when we face for a moment
the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know
the taint in our own selves, that awe
cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:
not to a flower, not to a dolphin,
to no innocent form
but to this creature vainly sure
it and no other is god-like, God
(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I am professor and chair of the Calvin University English department, where I have taught a range of courses in literature and composition since 1998. An Army brat, I have come to love my adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m also the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture. My book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, was published in July 2023 by Intervarsity Press.

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