21After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Not that I remember, but I imagine circumcision is a pretty painful ordeal.

circumcision-jesusThis story we are preparing to celebrate navigates painful terrain. As a man Jesus would face rejection, betrayal, denial, mockery, injustice, unspeakable violence, the deepest imaginable experience of desertion, and death. This is not a journey anyone volunteers for. But it is the reality, to greater or lesser degrees, that we all face.

Just as none of us gets out of this life arrangement except through physical death, none of us gets to make the journey to death without the experience of pain. It is not a question of if we are going to suffer, only how we will suffer and how we choose to respond.

How will we navigate the inevitable struggles that are a reality of life on this time-bound physical plane?

At his circumcision ceremony the baby whose birth we honour at this time of year was given the name “Jesus”. Jesus is the Anglicized version of the Hebrew Jehosua which means “God saves” or “God delivers.”

I need to be delivered from my determination that life should free of pain. I need to be saved from my belief that pain indicates that there is something wrong with my life.

Untold pain, dysfunction, and chaos have been created by the determination that my first job in life is to avoid all pain.

It is reported that, when Jesus grew into a man, he told his followers,

In this world you will have thlipsis (tribulation, distress, turmoil, pressure, friction).

But Jesus did not stop with this slightly gloom prognostication. He went on to say,

But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ (John 16:33)

The “world” may not look “conquered.” But we need to look more deeply. Jesus demonstrates the truth that love wins. Goodness and gentleness reign. The light shines in the darkness. There is always deeper truth and grace at work than I might perceive at first glance.

How am I in relationship to the reality of pain in my life and in the world?

What helps me see beneath the pain to the deeper reality that is born in Jesus?

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