Thursday, December 04, 2008

An Advent Call To Worship

The Mystery And The Manger

Clouded in mystery the Creator hovers over the earth with a watchful eye. Armed with limitless power, demonstrating complete sovereignty, claiming absolute authority, meting terrible justice, sharing the space of divinity with no being either in the heavens, or the earth, or under the earth, God reigns, supreme and invisible.

Completely intimidated by this Divine Mystery, human beings played out their part in the cosmic drama by building alters, offering sacrifices, praying and praising, beseeching and begging, predicting and prophesying, following the law in lock-step obedience, and hoping against hope that they have remained faithful enough to escape God’s wrath.

With a name too Holy to speak, Jehovah, whose inscrutable councils judged human response, and whose mysterious ways defied understanding, none-the-less sought intimate relationship with his often terrified creatures - the unknowable seeking to know and be known.

Then in an act of miraculous mystery, the distant suddenly becomes proximate, the transcendent becomes immanent. This happens not in the palaces or temples or public places of honor and/or celebrity among the elite of human beings, but in a feed trough, a manger, in an unremarkable cave somewhere near Bethlehem, witnessed only by a displaced teenager, her young husband, and a handful of livestock.

A revolutionary relationship of Creator to Creation burst like a thunderclap on the landscape of the world, in a manger in Bethlehem. In that moment the full paradox of God’s awesome mystery and God’s unlikely presence in the lowly manger exist side by side, each pointing to the other in an event of revelation unrivaled in human history.

In that moment, the birth of Christ manifest God’s awesome power and presence, which had been mysterious and invisible to the eyes, in an event that had particularity and specificity. God had come near. The fullness of time had come. By some divine and mysterious working of power, the fullness of the creator had come to dwell in this baby God, in this specific place, and at this particular time.

Manger and Mystery still dwell together, each undiminished by the other. They point to the unknowable and the knowable at the same time. They create in tandem the paradox of relationality with which we struggle and in which we find deep spiritual intimacy.

Praise be to the Creator in whom we find our being. Praise be to the Redeemer in whom we find our present teacher, and Praise be to the Spirit in whom we find God’s voice. Praise be to this Holy Trinity through whom Mystery and Manger are held in tension so that we rightly fear, and joyfully experience the fullness of God’s power, love, and presence.

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