Isaiah 64: 1-5a (KJV)
“Oh that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your Presence–as fire burns brushwood and as fire causes water to boil–to make Your name known to our adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Your presence! When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, the mountains shook at Your presence. For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways.”
God’s Gift is Jesus!
Whether during Advent and Christmas time, or at any other time in our earthly lives, have not each of us at some point wanted God to come down more powerfully to save us from some troubling situation or evil, bad habit, or painful feeling?
In this passage, Isaiah reminds his people of when the presence of God came down and shook things up and so begs God to show up again powerfully to fix things gone awry. Yes, we all are more likely to ask for help when we are frightened and at the end of our rope, having made a mess of things due to our own self-will run riot. At times like this when we are awash in the consequence of our own choices and the sometimes dire circumstances of human life, we can resort to begging God to show up more obviously, powerfully and quickly. Like drowning men, we scream for the immediate force and presence of a saving hand and loving face.
Well, God answered our prayer, for that IS what we got in sweet Jesus. We can say His name to any adversary we face and it can move mountains and shake things up, also within ourselves if we really see His life as a model and exhortation for our own.
What else might this passage suggest for us to consider. Here are my responses:
• Scripture (John 1:2) tells us the Word that became flesh as Jesus always was with God from the beginning. Thus, it is not a coming “down” at one point in time, place or person so much as an awakening in us to what always was, IS NOW, and always will be. Ultimately, The Great I AM, the source and essence of all life, cannot be divided or contained, born or killed, limited to any one space, time, or face. God is ALL— there IS—-really; now, then, and forever, God is the Alpha and the Omega and there is no place or time where God is or was not.
• Jesus tells us that God is love and if we abide in love, God abides in us and we abide in God. We are promised God’s presence will not leave or forsake us, God’s faithfulness is steadfast and eternal, and in God there is no variableness or shadow of turning. Psalm 139 reminds us there is nowhere we can flee from the presence of God as God is in heaven and hell, both above and below, and all around us. As we have heard preached, “If we feel God is not present, we can be sure who moved, and it is not God.”
• God is Omnipresent and so is not up and we are down, except in a metaphorical sense, such as “The Secret Place of the Most High” or God’s throne in heaven. The many references in the Bible to images of an anthropomorphic God and God’s higher position of vision and authority, wisdom and knowledge, might and majesty, makes it seem as though literally God is above and beyond us in a heavenly locale, yet these are just images of honor due our Awesome God. Indeed, we do rise up from human frailty and circumstance when we meet God whose Spirit is greater than ours and everywhere, while God is humbled, metaphorically speaking, to meet us where and as we are. Thus, our relationship with God is a mutual indwelling of sorts. Being created in the image and likeness of God, as God’s precious sons and daughters, as reflections of God, God is as close as our breath, the very breath given to us and sustained by God. Being told by Jesus that the Kingdom of Heaven is within and our body is a holy temple serves to remind us that God is actually within us and expressing through us. As Rumi says, “The Beloved is the wine and I am the cup”, while Jesus similarly states, “He is the Vine and we are the branches.”
• God did not need help in being God and manifesting on earth. It was our human blindness and deafness to God that needed help; we were unable to “see” beyond our five senses and the physical world to the unseen; apparently we couldn’t believe and have faith without a face. We doubted like Thomas until we could touch and talk directly to God in human form or heard the testimony of those who did.
• God always has and continues to show God’s power and being in creation, but we have not always been awake to it or aware of it in its fullness nor how it is still being expressed in multitudinous times, places, forms and faces. God does not show up once and for all; rather God is one for all, for all times, and yet continues to be dynamically and powerfully involved and revealing God’s essence in our very lives and earthly circumstances to this day. Every moment, year in and year out, God is expressing, but are we receptive, noticing, grateful, and sharing of this fact?
• Jesus told us we would see and serve Him in the least of these: the stranger, hungry, thirsty, naked, poor, and outcast, even in our enemies, people who show up in our daily lives as seemingly unlovable or unnoteworthy. Surely it is easier for us to love a historic innocent baby in a manger than any of these whom Jesus said to love in the here and now. So do we really hear Jesus in the now, calling us to see and love Him in everyone, in the everyday? Might this actually be the second coming of Jesus, through us as His hands and feet, as selfless servants? Might Jesus really be waiting for us to follow the one commandment He asked of us which we still don’t live out completely – that is “To love God with our whole mind, heart, soul and strength, and our neighbor (everyone) as our self?” Period!
So what are we really waiting for? In Isaiah’s verse, God acts for and meets those who rejoice in God and do righteousness. So are we doing right by God, this Advent, this Christmas, every day, by doing all the good we can…. as Wesley admonishes us to do? God may actually be waiting for us to “come down” to God’s reality and love as God loves, demonstrated by Jesus on earth. God may be returning the questions asked by Isaiah, that you people would rend the heavens and be earth shaking in how you love as I have first loved you, from the beginning of creation, in Jesus, and throughout all time. I have been continually showing my hand and my face in Jesus and other holy (and even ordinary!) people, in saints and prophets, in all of creation, and now it is your turn! Each of you are to make room for Jesus on the inn-side and then show my presence on the out-side, extending the birth of Christ beyond a point in time or place in Bethlehem. I AM always “coming down”; now it’s your turn to come up by showing up as the broken bread and poured out wine of Christ. Remember, there is no separation between we three and thee.
In summary, God has always been real and in our reality; it’s time for us to get real by really living out the Christ born and reborn in us. Instead of us yelling at God to show His face and get down here and do something amazing to fix things, it is God who is calling us to show our face and get up and do something amazing to love as God always has, is, and will continue to do so.
To paraphrase from Rumi’s Little Book of Life: The Garden of the Soul, the Heart, and the Spirit, ‘It is in your power, my friend, to gaze continually at the Beloved’s face. Love’s task is to create a window in the heart that is forever open so that the Beloved’s beauty may illumine and activate your life.’Adele P. Swan
Prayer: May I open the window of my heart and see the face of God, YOU, the Beloved, the Christ, everywhere, eternally present, knowing that You are seeking my loving response in praise and acts of compassion and care. Amen.