I wrote this on facebook a few days ago after I had been reading Romans 10:
“You don’t need to search the heavens for a sign or strain to see to the horizons of the deepest widest sea for rescue to appear. Emmanuel: God with us. May God birthed faith be awakened or re-awakened in you and in me to know that, remember that and hear that. He is at hand: He is called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace: near, with, within, whichever you need to know: not unattainably high or an ocean depth and width away.”
These words came back to me this morning with a personal relevance. Allow me to explain and expand here!
It is just the way my mind works. I think it has been made worse by steroids. What am I talking about? Well, from time to time, especially within a certain period of time after taking my medication in the morning, a hint of facts until then unknown to me, is too much for me. For example this morning I was up early due to having to take a certain medicine after being up for an hour and before I have eaten anything or taken any other medication. I put on the T.V. I heard a story about a ship that was wrecked off the Isle of Wight during the second world war. It was full of South African soldiers. A huge number of people perished. In fact I think it was mentioned it was the second worst shipwreck ever in British waters. Of the number who perished a huge percentage were black. They were required in the service of the British Empire, but the South African Government would not allow them to bear arms therefore they had to serve as carriers and cooks. My mind started working overtime with those little bits of facts. It wanted to delve more into the story, especially to find out the reasoning as to why black soldiers from South Africa could not carry armsarm. Then, a fear arose within me: there is so much in this story alone that I am ignorant of, so much I do not know. Researching that story alone could take me down roads of learning and knowledge that I know nothing about….
…so I decided to switch programmes. Gardening was on the next channel up. It idid not take long for the familiar fear to arise again: the right sort of soil, what to plant with what for what reasons…so much I do not know. Again, multiple possible roads of learning seemed to beckon.
I am so glad that finding God does not involve searching endless roads of learning. There is a sort of approach to spirituality that Gandhi suggested, namely that God was so worth finding that it was worth looking for Him as patiently as picking up one drop of the ocean at a time with a straw. In contrast to that endless search approach, we have the story of Christmas. In a specific place that can be found on a map, at a time which can be measured in history, in a baby named Jesus the Son of Mary, God came to us.
It sounds strange but it is thankfully true, that though there are so many things in the world that I cannot ever hope to learn and know, I can come to know the One who is greater and creator of all that can be known. To find Him is not hard. Religion when it goes wonky thinks it is hard to know God involving some sort of endless search which never comes to an arrival point. Where is the step ladder by which I can strive to climb up to heaven and meet God? How can I mine the depths of the mysteries of life and death to find the Lord of both? Maybe I can never discover the mystery which is God until beyond death?
The bible says that we do not need to climb up to heaven as though Christ has never come down to us. Nor need to wait until we go through the valley of the shadow of death to meet with Him as though Christ had never made that journey first. He has done so. He has lived our life, died our death and offers his risen victorious self for relationship from the other side of the grave to us this side of the grave! He is simply a step of faith away, or better a step of faith near to us.
God is not an idea for the philosophers alone to attain to, not a branch of endless learning better understood by the intellectually gifted. In fact, i the bible, God in terms of what we need to know about Him and His heart and purposes for us and for the world, is a mystery revealed, uncovered in Jesus, not a concealed knowledge for the few. There is an approach to spirituality that seeks to cover up the revelation with mystery again. It can be the mystery of mysticism itself, the mystery of profound language, interesting speculation, or even the mystery that only those who know the most subtle nuances of Greek or Hebrew can ever hope to decipher.
I hope you have the most amazingly simple and non-mysterious Christmas. May you find in Jesus the one who helps you to worship, for as you discover Him you will find the word “Wonderful,” rising on your lips in praise. May you find His help near to you in day to day decisions in your life, for He is “Counsellor.” May you find Him giving you strength where you are aware you are weak for he is “the Mighty God.” Whatever age you are, may you find the security in Jesus of having an “Everlasting Father.” I pray too He will be “the Prince of Peace” in situations of tension and turmoil within you or around you.
God has made Himself so findable, He plants himself in Jesus in the ordinary soil of our humaness. He dis-covers Himself there to our gaze.