Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent, Day 22

"I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel." - Genesis 3

"The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." - Revelation 12

"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." - John 3:17

Today's readings bookend the Bible and also cut to the heart of it. The Genesis story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden is placed alongside a story of war breaking out in heaven, a shocking idea if ever there was one. And Jesus is held up in John's gospel as the savior of the world.

Even if I were not a Christian, I think I would find the Christian story absolutely thrilling. How can it be rivaled? God creates people. People decide to take on the responsibility of being God themselves. They mess it up, and the result is more and more separation from God. God calls them back again and again, but even when they listen, it's not for long. How can God reach them? God can become one of them. But when he does, they kill him. And then -- surprise! God transforms that death into the one thing that can save the world from this crippling separation from its creator. Effectively saved but still largely unaware of that fact, the world goes on, sometimes listening, sometimes not. The church works to reduce the separation from God, to call people back into that relationship. Evil, despite apparent victories all over the world, cannot now ever defeat good, and the stories tell of a time in the future when good will finally utterly defeat evil.

It would be easy to sit back and say, "Well, that's just a story." I don't fault anyone who does. And yes, in some ways, it is a story -- but never "just." Because it's not just a story for listening to. It's a story for placing ourselves within. It's a story for orienting us to our ultimate purpose in life, and for working that purpose out with each passing day and year of our lives. To place ourselves within the story requires vulnerability, humility, a willingness to be wrong, and a perpetual willingness to change. I have heard lots of stories, but none of them compares to this one. I have taken on this story as the story of my own life.

We tell the story every year, and oh, how I love to tell it. We are just about at that point in the story when God becomes one of us. It's a deep, deep mystery that we've been preparing for these several weeks. And we're almost there ... we're almost there ...

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