We considered, in December, the remarkable Advent text taken from 2nd Samuel, in which King David wants to build a temple for God. God’s response is to say, whoa, wait a minute – I never asked you to build me a house. I prefer to be out amongst my people. I’m a God who is on the move. As we continued our Advent journey we encountered the anticipation of waiting for God and, at Christmas, saw the extraordinary and astounding movement of God from Heaven to earth, from Spirit Form to flesh.
On Sunday we examined the ‘Epiphany’ – the revelation of God in the world. Often we use the word to mean a sudden, inexplicable flash of insight or understanding. In the church calendar this is illustrated in the Magi, who come from what is now Iraq to worship the Christ Child. In them we see God revealing his son to the world outside the narrow confines of Israel. God on the move.
This coming Sunday we celebrate the Theophany, another odd word that simply means “God revealing himself” In the Epiphany we celebrate God revealing Christ to non-Jews. Yet, as we discussed last Sunday, there was a certain amount of uncertainty in this. The Magi didn’t know exactly what the sign meant, or where they were going – thus they arrived at Herod’s palace looking for the Messiah – exactly the wrong place to be. And when they finally found the Christ Child the experience may have been somewhat underwhelming – they may have seen a perfectly ordinary-looking baby in a perfectly ordinary looking mother’s arms. In an example of a theophany, however, – the baptism of Jesus – there is absolutely no mistaking the fact that this is God who is being revealed. The flesh is stripped away, God is revealed, and there is no ambiguity or uncertainty at all.
Clearly, we’re seeing a God who is on the move, a God who is in the process of revealing himself to us. This is a God who has entered in to our world, our reality, our lives. If Jesus is just another sage or prophet or teacher, than this is all academic – at best. But for well over 1000 years Christians have structured their church calendar and their spiritual lives on the foundation of Advent and Christmas, of God becoming flesh, of God closing the distance between him and us. And, after the ascension – when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost – that distance closes to zero. Oh yes, definitely, this is a God who is on the move.
Image from Michael May’s Adventure Blog.