Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Who is God?

"What is your beloved more than another beloved?" - (asked by the daughters of Jerusalem in Song of Solomon)

How God is obscured in the dim glare of our everyday. We have thrown him into a great heap of religious relics and gold-plate, useless artifacts thick with the dust of age, but none of the deep patina'd sheen of the ages. We've covered the Living God with stale incense and dull chalices full of murky potions, the magnificence of cumbersome robes and gothic arches, and the choking must of books unread and out-of-date. We have exchanged the shining splendour of One who wraps himself in light like a garment for the smoke-and-mirrors flash of long-robed pastors (or pirates?) on healing tours.

Where is the God who dwells in cloud and rides on the wind? Where is El Shaddai, the many-breasted God? Who has seen that One who also calls himself Love? Have you heard him, seen him, sensed him - the deep One of the Ages? There is nothing of western sophistication about him. He is wild and ancient and vibrant and warm. He is wide and pure and great and humble and free.

I saw God this week, in a son of Punjab who stooped to touch his father's feet; in a field of snowy whiteness and a gold-flushed sky; in a dog full of eagerness and trust and single-hearted patience; in a bundled baby, warm and round. He was there, in the bright flutter of a scarf; in the spin of a bicycle wheel; in the bent back of an old man shovelling snow. I heard him in the voice of a friend; in the howl of a wind that bent trees; in the beat of an eastern drum.

God is all about, everytime and everywhere, and he is almost nothing that they say he is. He is Great and Good. He is Love and Life and Light and Truth. I long for the day when every energy in the universe will bend itself toward him, loving and singing and spending itself in and for the heart-breaking beauty and the deep fullness of the One who is Love.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

God and the Politics of Christmas

I hear a lot of grumbling this time of year about "the reason for the season" and "Merry Christmas" being the new un-PC greeting. Come, come. Christians have never had sole claim to Christmas - why do we figure we need it now? The "reasons for the season" are about as various as the people celebrating it. Do you suppose Jesus was born on December 25 under a Christmas tree? Do you suppose God is bothered by people who say "Happy Holidays"?

The trouble with all of this wrangling over what Christmas means and who is allowed to celebrate it and how, is that it completely obscures the real issues. It gives us a sense of control because monitoring people's words is something we can manage. It's measurable, and in our world, value must be measured. But it shines a light on us and sticks God in a dim corner. It causes us to forget who it is that we are asking people to celebrate when we stubbornly call out "Merry Christmas" to the grocery store clerk. We are glad to tell people of a God who became a human, who knows our weakness, who was a baby before he was our Saviour - but we present him as a small-minded disciplinarian, more focused on the shape of the words than their actual meaning.

This Christmas, what if we ignored the encroaching darkness around us, and took up arms against the darkness within us? What if we gave up selling Bethlehem as a tourist destination and instead, bowed like awestruck shepherds inside our own hearts before God-become-human? What if we quit looking around at who else was there with us, and got a good peek instead at the babe called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace?

What would that say about the season?

Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Happy Holidays to you all!