Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CLOSE TO SANTA? OR CHRIST?

Closeness. We crave closeness, emotionally and spiritually – but not always. Somebody I don’t know that well gets in my personal space, and I edge back. But the one I love? the one I want to be loved by? I want to get as close as possible.

I think Christmas is nothing more or less than God’s desire to be close to me, to you, to us. We can fairly easily conceive of God as some kind of distant power that made the universe happen. Or – sadly – we harbor a Santa Claus view of God, a jolly guy far far away who does show up once in a great while to give us things we’ve wanted (or need), but then he doesn’t stay, he zooms back to the North Pole. In fact, Christmas (ironically!) may be to blame for our bland, convenient, un-close view of God.

This must grieve God’s heart: we believe in God, but we’ve never let God get close. Somehow I have this funny photo of my mother taking me to Santa when I’m one year old – and I’m terrified; the Santa in question does seem a bit grim... I like this, though, because we should be quite terrified at the prospect of God-as-Santa, that we’re on our own until we think up a request, and then we pray (letter to Santa…) and hope God delivers.

If God merely delivered – even if God always delivered everything on our list! – how tragic would it be? You might be satisfied with a big pile of things, and making your life happen on your own – but I find a hollow place in me nothing in this world can fill. I find my mind stretching beyond the visible. I find my heart yearning for more love than all those who love me can muster. I know I must be part of something larger than me or even the best life I can arrange. I know that whenever I die it won’t have been long enough. God has planted in me a tangle of confused feelings that all add up to a need to be close to God – even if I forget that and get tricked into thinking one more gadget, one more achievement, one more relationship will be enough.

We’re planning this modern day Revival2011 – and what it’s really about is getting close to God, asking God to stay, to stick close, to love, and be loved. Skeptics get puzzled by Christianity, but I would think we might quite naturally gravitate to the love we desperately want. God wanted to get close.

How close? God stepped down, and became quite small, and vulnerable – and stepped down into a young mother’s arms. What is more beautiful, or tender, than a mother cradling her newborn? She hold him strongly but gently; she sings audibly but not loud enough to awaken him; time stands still, and all the wonder of the universe is concentrated in that very small spherical space of her arms around the small boy. All is calm, all is bright.

That is how close God wants to be to you. Can you take a big step toward God in Christ? Can you become small, humble, and let yourself be held, in the quiet calm? Don’t you cherish the possibility of such love from a God you really hope will stay?

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