The incarnation & the near, here.

So today my reading took me to the “near” in Deuteronomy and the “here” of John’s Gospel, triggering thoughts of Norman Mailer along the way.

The “near?” Deuteronomy 30: 11-14. “Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

The “here?” John14:23. “Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

Add a dash of John 1:1-4 and 1:14. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people¢â‚¬¦14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

How does Norman Mailer enter the picture? After an interview with Mailer in Chicago, he discovered I was a seminary graduate. His response was vintage, crusty animated Mailer. “Oh I wish I would have known you were a seminary graduate. I would have gone out drinking with you. I used to get drunk and talk about sex, now I get drunk and talk about God. I’m obsessed with God!” Further conversation revealed Mailer’s conviction that God is imminent (near), all loving, but not all powerful (otherwise why the Holocaust he asked?).

Whether God is near or here are the timeless perennial human imponderables. As one mystic wrote, God is the “Cloud of Unknowing,” yet the incarnation moves God out of the cloud and onto earth. Hinting at God’s existence Francis Schaeffer titled one book, “The God who is There,” and yet Jesus promises that as he came in the flesh and “moved into the neighborhood,” (Eugene Peterson’s wonderful paraphrase of John 1:14), so God and Jesus will make their HOME with (and through the Holy Spirit) IN those who love and obey God. He is not just there, he is not just near, GOD is HERE!

C.S. Lewis said in “Miracles”: “We cannot conceive how the Divine Spirit dwelled within the created and human spirit of Jesus: but neither can we conceive how His human spirit, or that of any man, dwells within his natural organism. What we can understand, if that Christian doctrine is true, is that our own composite existence is not the sheer anomaly it might seem to be, but a faint image of the Divine Incarnation itself the same theme in a very minor key.”

May your joyous reflections on the incarnation celebrated at Christmas, be matched by your devotion to prepare him room in your life, so you too may enjoy the indwelling Christ as another miraculous incarnation, albeit in a minor key. I say this particularly for those experiencing suffering, tragedy and the nasty consequences of human fallen-ness in this season. In these moments we live by faith, the substance of things hoped for yet not seen, and we trust God is here, not because we hear God, sense His presence or experience His love, but because we know at one time God was there, at Christmas he was here, and once here, he promised to never leave or forsake us.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in December 23, 2004 by | No Comments »

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