I really enjoyed the film version of “Paddington” that hit our cinema screens a couple of years ago. There are few films of which I can genuinely say, “I loved every minute of that,” but that was one of them! I think what made it extra enjoyable was that seated in the row in front of us in the cinema was a wee girl of about 4 years old. She was so engrossed in the film that she was laughing uproariously, totally unselfconscious. When something disastrous was looming she would shout out loud enough for all the cinema to hear, “Oh no!!!!” It was a delight to watch her enjoyment and happiness. If it brought me joy, what must it have done to her parents to see their little one so happy?
Well, this may be stretching some of us a bit too far, but one of the times when I have been most aware of an intense presence of God was when I watched the film “Elf” last Christmas. It is a film I have tried to watch each Christmas for a few years now. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I find it to be a great “feel good” film and immensely funny. As I watched it last Christmas I was aware of the delight of God in my enjoyment of the film, His delight in my laughter. The God of all the Universe, my Heavenly Father was enjoying watching me watching “Elf.” He wasn’t muttering disapproval that here was yet another Christmas film that was nothing to do with Christmas. He was enjoying my laughter at a film that included elves, Santa Claus, Candy Canes, Department stores loaded with presents, unlikely romance, and the longest burp in cinematic history!
Is this the God you know? The God who is as much enthralled with you when you are watching a film as when you pray or read the bible, the God who takes great delight in our happiness? I didn’t always place such a high importance on the spirituality of happiness. In fact I think “happiness” seemed to be something that was frowned upon in my early days as a believer, because it was a light thing: as the word suggests it depended on what was happening to us at a given moment, as compared to true spiritual joy which is something that is there irrespective of what is happening. Actually that is a proper distinction, but it does not mean that God is not interested in human happiness and laughter. He likes it when His children have truly deep joy but He likes to see his children happy too, even though that may well be a simpler and lighter thing. He is just enthralled with His children and cannot take his eyes off of us.
I remember when God first taught me that lesson. We were going through a difficult time in the church I was ministering in at the time, although it was a good time too as God was moving by His Spirit in an unusual and fresh way. I used to go down to the church on a Saturday night and read over my sermon notes and pray. After that I would come home to the manse and have a cup of coffee and watch T.V. Almost every Saturday night when I sat down with my coffee I became aware of the intensity of God’s presence. When I say intensity, I don’t mean a deep, deep, awesome thing. I mean simply something that was tangible, but if anything it was very light rather than very deep. Quite often it felt as though God was running His fingers through my hair. I presumed He was somehow anointing me for the Morning Service the next day. It took a while for me to realise that was not the case. The Sunday anointing would come on the Sunday. This was for Saturday. He was just sealing my coffee and TV time, my relaxed time, with His kiss and His delight.
I don’t know if that wee four year old would have been embarrassed to find everyone in the cinema looking at her with great happiness and warmth, embarrassed because she didn’t know she was being watched. I pray that God may surprise you in the simplest of ordinary pleasures this week with an awareness that He is there and that He is looking at you with great delight. He seems to delight in me as much when I drink coffee as when I was fit enough to preach in church or pastor people. May you catch Him looking at you at times when you least expect Him to be taking an interest in what you are doing. He is “Holy, Holy ,Holy God.” “Holy” means different, separate. He is different and separate from all other “gods.” For example other gods were gods of specific places: there were mountain gods and valley gods; but Yahweh was “Holy,” He was different, for He was God of the mountain and the valley and every other corner of the universe. There were sun gods and moon gods, but Yahweh was God of the day and God of the night. Well, I can’t think of any other “god” I have ever heard of who would take delight in watching me drinking Coffee or watching a stupendously light and ridiculous Christmas film that was nothing to do with Christmas! He really is very holy, very different indeed, different even from what I was led to believe by others as I listened to them in my formative Christian years. There is no other “god” whom by the grace of Christ I can call “Abba” than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is Abba in more than name to His little ones. I am so glad that He is truly more “holy” than I could have dared believe.
May the God who watches over you in the day and in the night, in church and in the cinema bless you!
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