Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent, Day 23

For God alone my soul in silence waits; 
 from God comes my salvation.
God alone is my rock and my salvation, 

 my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken. - Psalm 62

At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the LORD. - Zephaniah 3

The stage is set.

What is the craziest belief we Christians share? I don't think it's the idea that God would come into the world as one of us. I think that's just a brilliant idea, so brilliant that, of course, God would come up with it. It's the kind of idea that, once thought of, seems like the most logical thing in the world.

No, I think the craziest idea is one we share with people of other religions as well, and with people of no religion.

It's the idea that God would and does intervene in our world at all.

It's easy to imagine that a vague, creative "force" created everything that exists. Very few people in the world don't believe that. Even people who call themselves atheists might admit to the philosophical necessity of a "prime mover," as the Greeks put it.

But what if that "prime mover" were not just The Force, described by Yoda as that which "binds the galaxy together"?

What if the "prime mover" were actually a person?

What if the very fact that we are self-aware is only possible -- is specifically true to our nature -- because the One who created us is also self-aware?

What if self-awareness is the entire project of the universe, and everything else in it is set in motion for the sake of our apprehending it with our senses?

We're already a step removed from pantheism, the idea that everything that exists is God. No, there seems to be separation here between that which is self-aware and that which is not, and between Creator and Created. And if that's the case, then the logic of the universe seems to be not just about grand, cosmic things, but also about specificity. God creates everything that is, and God creates or allows for creatures' awareness so that they can interact with the creation in a meaningful way. But there is a necessary separation there.

The story of the three monotheistic faiths -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- is the story of that separation. It is portrayed -- and felt -- as a tragedy, a great breach in creation across which we are always trying to find our way back. The separation allows us to become more and more who we are, and that much is wonderful and necessary. But it still feels like we have a long journey home ahead of us.

The Christian solution is that we don't have to cross that breach, because we can't. Rather, God has come -- is coming -- is always coming -- across that gap, running at a dash, arms outstretched, to embrace us.

It's the most undignified behavior we might imagine for a great, glorious, Creator-deity.

Dealing with us earthlings so directly on this tiny, insignificant planet?

Calling a chosen people to be a blessing to all the others?

Becoming known in a special way through certain stories and writings?

Existing for thirty short years as a Palestinian Jew under the occupation of the Roman Empire?

Carrying on work in the world through an organization as relentlessly flawed as the Church, as driven by dissension and self-interest as the myriad churches?

Hearing my prayers, identifying with my concerns, appearing to me (just as to you) in ways that make God's presence a sure thing in my life?

And still being the creator of everything that is, was, and will be?

It's so ... specific.

It's a scandal.


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