Wednesday, December 21, 2005

blue christmas

curious servant said... I always feel a little blue this time of year. I shove it aside and work at being all that is right about Christmas for my children. But I feel a little blue.That is OK.

a friend of mine was recently confessing the same 'blueness' around the Christmas season. he has used it to fuel his cynicism, explaining that he sees more sadness amongst the people withwhom he works at this time of year than the rest of the year combined. i guess that, to some degree, i agree with him...

yet the agreement strengthens my faith, not my lack of it. it drives me to seek God's face in this time of well-intentioned emotional static.

in my view, if we place our greatest emotional stock in people and human relationships, then christmas can be pretty heavy. people are so good at letting themselves and everyone else down. family and friendly relationships that are supposed to be so close end up feeling -er- obligatory some years.

any breakdown in relationships seems to bare teeth at christmas because we gauge so many aspects of our life's success upon the expressions of our relationships at this time of year... heck, there are stories of soldiers laying down their guns at wartime to enjoy christmas dinner with the enemy, and we get thinking geez- what's that? i can't even think of what to write in a christmas card for a once-close- now casual- friend.

i won't blame satan. that's too easy. it's our problem. however, it's our problem because we leave our biggest spiritual and social buttons exposed during the christmas season and the minions just work the crowd, pushing them and bolting. we turn around and blame each other for our sense of emptiness, rather than open ourselves to the comfort and joy of God as expressed through others, whether strangers or brothers, who suffer the same calamity.

as we place greater stock in our relationship with almighty God through the expressions of goodwill that characterize people's response to the birth of his son (whether intentionally or simply out of tradition) there is the reminder that, with all of its failings, humankind has not been abandoned. the theology of immanuel: God with us is evidenced by the fact that, amidst all that is wrong, there are still glimmers of what is right in every selfless act.

as long as the glimmer exists, there is immanuel- there is hope.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

a clear and present danger

i wish that i could think in a straight line.
however, it just doesn't work that way for me. through a series of twists and turns, switchbacks and setbacks i do move forward... although i am sometimes unsure whether it is i who takes a journey or a journey that takes me...

as we drove across a bridge, my attention was drawn to some functional distinctives: many of the bridges here were multi-purpose: a causeway for vehicles, bicycles and trains. lazarus looked up from his near-sleep and said 'like salvation- one bridge.'
all along the sides of the road we saw cobra dens... there were apparently a LOT of cobras here.

the cobra does not build its own den. it lets a certain rather tasty, however industrious, type of ant do it... then it eats all the ants and moves in. you can tell the difference between a cobra den and a basic ant hill by the size of the holes...

jey told me that ancient hindus would build little prayer shelters around and over the den of a cobra and then worship it from a spot safely outside. reminiscent of the 'holy of holies.' therein resides the glory of a dangerous God.

(taken from poitu varam -the journals of my first mission trip-
august 20: saturday: day 11:part 2)

now there is no longer a holy of holies, and there are no longer hindu prayer huts over cobra dens. what does this say about our relationships with our gods? does this mean that we, as human beings, no longer acknowledge their power? have we grown too big, having reduced those to whom we bow to 'natural forces?'

or is it just that we take the long way home, averting our eyes along the way, lest we make eye contact with the spiritual realm and be obligated to respond in a life-changing way to God's holy gaze?

(i have often toyed with the idea that an entire sermon could be preached using only questions, but eventually rhetoric gets old, n'est-ce pas?)

i can't speak for the hindus- in fact, i find the whole 'prayer hut for the slithering god' a bit spiritually troubling, considering the common colloquialism for 'satan' in sri lanka is the snake.

what i can hang onto is the notion of the 'holy of holies.'

for the ancient jews, the holy of holies was the part of the temple that could only be accessed by the priests on an annual basis in intercession. (that they were only permitted to enter into this special place when going on behalf of others is probably a whole nother blog on the value of intercession in the eyes of God.) when Jesus died, the gospels tell us of the heavy curtain that separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple being torn by the hand of God himself- not by the hand of man. now whether this is to be taken literally or figuratively is up to your theology.

the thing is, Jesus was the bridge uniting the spiritual and the physical realms... it was he who truly had a foot in both worlds and he became our means of accessing the inaccessible- of gaining audience with the almighty. before Jesus, God was unapproachable- after him, God was close enough to kill.

kill or be killed- that would appear to be the way of the world outside of the garden. all of that darwinian spin comes together nicely when we look around us... and yet sovereign God is patient and loving and actively working out a means by which we can daily be saved.

curious servant recently posted a humble prayer:

My Lord...
Do not listen to my bravado...
Do not let me glory in things that are small...
Like who I am and what I have done.
Do not leave me with myself,

For I am a speck of self-important dust

My Lord...
Hear my prayers begging to serve...
Let me glory in things that are great...
Like who You are and what You have done.
Press me close to You,

For You made Yourself small to tell me I am loved

small enough to tell us of his unfailing love without the message destroying us... taking on a physical body to do so, only to have it destroyed by us.

the classical tragedy becomes comic: 'behold i make all things new...' for our would-be deicide became our only hope of survival beyond these short seventy or eighty years.

now if, in our bravado, we still claim dominion and stubborn self-reliance, then the physical experience, encumbered by things like time, space and circumstance, is all we can hope for... at the end of it all we still face the truth that 'we had a good run, but now it's done.' however, if we cross the bridge- choosing to put our hope of a greater future in the care of a dangerous God- we discover that a holy and eternal creator is dangerous only to that which threatens his investment and restricts our joy to the realm of the physical.

a segment is a direct, measurable distance between two points on a line.
a ray is an immeasurable distance, beginning at a fixed point and extending on to infinity.

so which geometric figure do we choose to best represent 'life?'

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