My father was a man of many fascinating tools, and though he did his best to protect them from us, he did occasionally leave the house for work or bowling and abandon his precious tools to us kids. Accordingly, my siblings and I took full advantage of his lapse in judgment and often played games with some of his more tempting tools. One of our favorite and more sadistic games included my dad’s electric fence charger. This intriguing tool consisted of a rectangular, round-cornered wooden block with a crank handle on one side and two small, cone-shaped wire coils on top. I’m not really sure how the contraption functioned besides that when we cranked the handle it made a mellow grinding sound, and if you grabbed the wires attached to the two coils while someone cranked the handle, the machine delivered a shock sharp enough to knock you over. Our game was to dare each other to grab the wires while someone furiously charged the thing and then count how long we could hold on. None of us made it beyond two or three.
Is that what God’s power is like?
Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week. And after the first of the year join us for our new blog The Neighborhood Cafe: A Faithblog Community.
TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Zechariah 2:1-3:10: There is a Christmas message even in Zechariah. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.” The birth of Christ was the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise. Since that day, God has lived among us in a way never before imagined. And this Christmas people of every tongue and in every nation will be united in celebrating the birth of Immanuel.
Revelation 13:1-18: Notice that the Beast and his offspring rule through coercion and validate their power through signs and wonders and shallow miracles. What is missing? Love. Read this section and then read Luke 1-3 and compare how God and his only begotten Son begin God’s rule through love and validate it through transforming lives.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Somehow I think of that crazy game whenever I hear someone talk about God in terms of a Higher Power. It makes me wonder if calling out to God is similar to grabbing those old wires, and if I really made a connection, God would shock the hell out of me. Not that God is sadistic; but God can be quite shocking.
I say this because I don’t believe any of us knows what we are playing with in God. In truth, when grappling with God, we are not dealing with Clark Kent—impotent and bespectacled.
I mean, really, even calling God a Higher Power is mild when describing the Being who holds the very fabric of the universe together. When we puny humans discovered how to split the atom, the explosion that ensued was beyond any power we had ever seen or imagined. Tragically, lives, families—whole cities vaporized. Imagine if God let slip just a few of the billions of atoms held together in His tireless grip. Higher Power indeed!
No matter the IQ, can any human, with a mere three pounds of gray matter, fathom the vast intelligence of God coursing through the cosmos? I don’t know about you but I struggle to make sense of algebra much less Einstein’s theory of relativity. Much less God.
Totally Other is how some have described God. Compare: The purest of human love—a teenage crush. The greatest sculpture—a stick figure. The most ingenious machine—a toy. So beyond us God is, we could never hope to leap that far.
Holy, or set apart, and different, is how much of Scripture portrays God from us. One of my seminary professors loves to point out that even Moses only glimpsed the backside (derrière) of God because God’s “face must not be seen.” (Exodus 35:23) When I am honest about how puny I am and how powerful God is, I picture myself approaching God in one of those hazardous material suits. There I am draped in some heavy, white, canvas-like suit (boots, gloves, the whole deal) shaking like Jell-O, peering out of a protective helmet, fumbling with robotic arms on the other side of thick glass, and attempting to touch God. Who dare approach God? Who is able to?
Not me! The reality is, however, that despite God’s fearful omnipotence, we need not wrap ourselves in literal or emotional protective suits when attempting to touch God. God took care of the problem Himself. Once upon a time God took His immense power and cloaked it in mere human flesh, the soft, smooth skin of an impoverished Jewish baby. This God did so that we could come close, just as Joseph and Mary, and the shepherds, and the wise men in fact did. Bruce Cockburn sings about this miracle of Immanuel, God Almighty with us in his song “Cry of a Tiny Babe”:
“It’s a Christmas gift that you don’t have to buy
There’s a future shining in a baby’s eye
Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
Through the cry of a tiny babe”
So, come on, come close. Shed that ridiculous hazardous material suit; it’s of no use anyway. God won’t hurt you. Love you, forgive you, redeem you, transform you, mess up your hair, and turn your world upside down, yes. But harm you, never!
If you live in the Denver area and have no faith community to celebrate the birth of Christ with, consider joining us at The Neighborhood Church for “Christmas at the Movies: Grace Unexpected” featuring “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We will worship at 5:30 and 7. See our website tnc3.org for details.
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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.