How I view myself can obscure how I see God. It’s not much different from holding up my hand to block the sun. My puny little hand is powerless to change the immensity and force of the sun, but attempting to block it out keeps my vision on that which is closest to me. When I focus on myself, and my abilities, I fool myself into thinking that the God who made me and continues to provide my next breath is unaware who He is dealing with or my circumstances.
And there hides Saul in the baggage, God’s chosen king over Israel, quaking with fear and trying to hide from his calling. It’s as if he is back in the Garden with Adam thinking that he can hide from God. But haven’t I done the same when I have thought that God was incapable of using the likes of me to help establish his kingdom here on earth?
Another dangerous paradigm can take place; it happens if I adopt Simon the Sorcerer’s thinking that personal influence and resources might allow access and control of the mysterious and untamed work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a heart full of “bitterness and captive to sin” ( Acts 8:23) that gives birth to this falsehood. It gives rise to a prosperity theology that robs so many of true joy and wonder.
I may take Saul’s view and think that personal fear and weakness are greater than God’s power or I may join Simon and think that I can somehow control the very Spirit of God. Both lies shrivel and die in the light of God’s grace. When I stop thinking about ME and dwell on the wonder of God and who He is, I see beautiful things happen in some of the most unexpected places. Our God, is the one who delights in surprising and amazing us with who He is and what He can do. True freedom and the abundant life are found in the unobscured light of God’s love.
Lord, give me the grace to get out of my own way when it comes to following you, who loves me ever so fiercely. I love you in all your mercy, grace and beauty. Thank you for all that you are.
Living in the West, it’s easy to take Jesus for granted. Our calendar, names of the cities and states, basic freedoms and rights, the institutions I rely on (hospitals, medical care, etc.) all have their roots in the life of Jesus Christ and those who followed him. History was forever changed when he came to earth. His existence stares me in the face everyday, yet I can so easily miss his presence.
I think that’s why I like Christmas so much. It’s the time of year (regardless of whether or not people call Jesus “Lord”) when we more or less recognize his coming to earth. I remember as a child, gazing into the tiny private world of the family creche. There was Mary and Joseph peering over the vulnerable form of Jesus in the manger. The lamb and calf, the rough looking shepherds, the three wise men. The tall angel in the background and at the top of the creche, the bright star. It was the tiny drama surrounded by the busyness of our home. As a child, the mystery of the creche called out to my imagination. I would gaze at it for what seemed like hours and wonder what it all meant.
John’s record of Jesus’s prayer in chapter 17 works up the same kind of wonder in my mind today. What if Jesus’s words are really true? What if I really belong to God? What if the glory of Jesus really is worked out in my life? What if the Holy Spirit really lives within me? What if this word that I read does sanctify me? What if?
The truth is that those all those “what ifs” really are “what is’s.” More than often, I am just too busy to stop and let my imagination soak in the reality of truth that is alive and well. What does this miracle of Emanuel, God-with-us mean to the moment by moment, day to day workings of this life? Christmas is the invitation to pull up the chair, gaze into the creche and with childlike faith, wonder at the truth God wants to work in our human lives.
Life can be monotonous: the daily commute, the piles of dishes, the endless exams, the long work weeks and short weekends, responsibilities and to do lists. Somewhere along the journey, I can misplace childlike wonder, simple gratitude, and my love for the One who made me and has called me his own. That’s when I join the people of Israel and find an idol who provides a temporary thrill in the journey and distracts me from my calling. Like the impetuous child who doesn’t get her way, I stomp my feet and declare that I am running away from the parent who truly loves me. I know how this adventure ends every time…badly.
Psalm 106 tells Israel’s story as well as my own. Maybe I don’t worship a metal calf, but it’s not beyond to me to adopt the idols of the world around me. Maybe it’s the bigger house, fatter paycheck, perfect marriage or successful children. Maybe it’s status or popularity…the choices and combinations are endless. They all have these things in common: my idols don’t love me back,leave me dissatisfied, depleted and lead to slavery.
Here’s the good news, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:3,4. I can come home at any moment. I don’t have to stay stuck in the service of idols or in the slog of life. He invites me to wonder and delight in Him and his love, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise?” Psalm 106:1.
Let the wonder begin.