Monday, December 24, 2012

God With Us

Tonight we celebrate the immortal vastness of God slipping into the flesh of a baby.  

That baby was born 
               in a mundane corner 
                        of a dark night 
                                  in a small town. 

Which really isn't the most spectacular way for God to have come.

Tonight we echo the angels and sing:

“Glory streams from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah,
Christ the savior is born!”

Now that is spectacular. But setting aside one sheep-covered hill, the spectacular announcement didn't really happen.  Most of creation wasn't bowled over by glory streaming down.

Somehow God himself entered his creation on a dark night without disturbing much of the darkness.

I was thinking of all those people in Bethlehem that night. How many of them had no idea of God’s grand entrance?  How much pain was in the city that night?  Among the people of Bethlehem there was sure to have been suffering that made them ask, “Where is God in this?”  Because sometimes in mundane corners on a dark nights it can be hard to find him. 

God was literally right around the corner, and people passing along the street outside had no idea. To most of them it was just a dark night like every other.  And even though he was there, he didn't fix everything.  He didn't thwart every evil scheme and bring peace and joy into every heart.

I was surprised that this didn't feel depressing.  It felt reassuring.

Because that’s the way I find him still today. 

He doesn't burst in on us wiping out any evil he finds. 

For reasons I don’t quite understand, he trickles in. 

I was reminded of this when I read some reactions to the school shooting asking where God was. 

We tend to think that if God is somewhere he will overrun it.  He will not only stop the man from killing the children, but he will also bless the children and redeem the man.  And if that’s what we are expecting then it looks like God wasn't there.  But if I remember how he acted in Bethlehem, then it’s safe to say that he was in that school but he trickled into the darkness and mostly we just see the darkness.

That’s only depressing if we think that the fact that he doesn’t stop all evil means that our lives aren’t infinitely precious to him.   

But that night long ago when God was born among us was night of crucial importance to his plan of redemption.  His presence there was a manifestation of his love for each of us including every soul that slept that night in Bethlehem. Yet on that night he slipped in quietly barely causing a ripple in the darkness.  His birth didn't send out a shock wave of holiness that purified every evil it encountered. The whole point of his birth was that he loved each of us so fiercely that he had come to destroy the darkness.  But in that moment he left most of the evil around him undisturbed. 

So today, when I read a friend’s post about depression, the fact that amidst that darkness God has trickled in and brought hope but he hasn't dispelled her darkness altogether doesn't mean he is not in the midst of redeeming her. 

In my own life, when God doesn't force me to see the truth about things when I’m feeling selfish or heal everyone I pray for it doesn't mean he is not very nearby and deeply involved in redeeming me.  

And, much to my chagrin, when he doesn't overrun Christians in general and keep them from saying and doing things that he doesn't want (or at least things I’m sure he doesn't want) it doesn't mean he isn't here redeeming his church.

For reasons that escape me, God’s redemption of his world is working as an undercurrent which is leaving the surface mostly undisturbed for now.  He leaves much of the work of fighting evil on the surface in our very flawed hands.  But thankfully (since as a species we are not particularly good at rooting out evil) his undercurrent is slowly and inevitably carrying us toward our final salvation.

And while we are here on Christmas Eve, living on the surface, fighting against the evil that is thriving around us and in us, we can still celebrate that undercurrent and not feel abandoned.   Because we can see the trickles of God here.  We can see the glory the angels drenched that one hill with.  We can see the gleams of hope lighting paths through the darkness and we can know that the place we are being carried is brighter than we can imagine.  

I feel more assured of God's presence because if during the birth of his son, a moment of infinite importance to him, God chose to work quietly and not destroy all the evil he could see, then just because he is not destroying all the evil I can see doesn't mean he is not deep in the midst of my redemption right now. 

 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
 For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Isaiah 43:2-3

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, 
and they will call him Immanuel" which means, "God with us."
Matthew 1:23


  1. This is stunning and beautiful, Janice. I love the perspective you shared here. It is still so very dark at times but yes, He trickles in. Fills cracks. Brings His redemptive plan and purpose with Him. I love this post. Because yes, He is God with us. Down low, sunk deep, close. Trickling in. Love you, friend. Thankful for your words here tonight.

    1. Down low, sunk deep, close. Exactly. Thanks, Alia.

  2. I am sooooo late to the party, but really glad I stopped by.
    I love this.
    God trickling into the darkness - yes. LOVE this.
    Welcome back, lady. Your words are powerful. Xx

    1. I'm glad you came to the party too! And thank you. That means a lot coming from you.

  3. Good word: "Somehow God himself entered his creation on a dark night without disturbing much of the darkness."

    Without disturbing much of it for now. But he will dispel it all some time.

    This reminded me of Isaiah 42:1-4
    "Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
    I have put my Spirit upon him.
    He will bring justice to the nations.
    2He will not shout
    or raise his voice in public.
    He will not crush the weakest reed
    or put out a flickering candle.
    He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
    He will not falter or lose heart
    until justice prevails throughout the earth.


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