Incarnate Compassion


"Light" and "Life" - on a building at Capernaum
“Light” and “Life” – on a building at Capernaum

Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace. – Luke 1:78-79 (CEB)


It is not uncommon to hear Mary’s Magnificat[1] during Advent. This is her song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s work in Jesus. Appropriately, the teenage Mary’s song is one of God’s reordering of social structure and penchant for the poor and marginalized.  What we hear less often, is the one is the one that follows: Zechariah’s first words after nine months of silence. Like Mary’s song, Zechariah’s is also a song of God’s salvation. However, Zechariah is a man of great age: his song focused on God’s mercy and compassion.

This word compassion is comprised of two Latin words: com (friendly and kind) and pati (to bear or suffer). The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”[2] These two words – friendly and suffer – don’t seem to go together. But in the mysteries of God they join – and in Jesus, they take on flesh.

The incarnation – and Jesus’ return – are certainly about salvation, just as they are about hope, peace, joy and love. But in the bright loudness of the heavenly host lighting up the Bethlehem sky[3] or the blast of the trumpet as the heavens open up and the Word of God descends riding on a white horse[4], let us not forget compassion: the mercy and love of God made flesh.

The incarnation is an act of God’s deep compassion.

Each Christmas, we celebrate God’s loving awareness of our suffering and darkness: an act not limited to the heart but made flesh and dwelling among us.

The word compassion is among the top 1% of Merriam-Webster lookups. The world is still looking for dawn to break, for light in the darkness, for a path of peace. Advent celebrates that we need look no further because compassion has come to us.


In the darkness, we hear the prophet John proclaiming that the Lord Most High is coming. Because of our God’s deep compassion, the Dawn from heaven broke upon us, giving light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Immanuel, full of grace and truth and the glory of God, may our eyes be open to see what you bring to light. Cast the darkness from our eyes so we may see; cover us with your compassion so we may also have compassion on ourselves and others; guide us on the path of peace, until the day when we make our home with you. Amen.



[1] Luke 1:46-55

[2] Source:, accessed December 5, 2016.

[3] Luke 2:8-14

[4] Revelation 19:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:16

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