Day 28: HEAVENS
Luke 2:16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
My aunt (hey, Trisha!) has been reading all these Advent posts, and when I saw her yesterday, she mentioned them. “Yeah, I said, it’s been great, because I’ve written every day! Even though some of them have been kind of…fume-y.”
I meant that some of these posts have been written with only the fumes of leftover energy and ideas during a high-energy season of church life. She heard “fuming.”
The practice was meant to be cathartic, I think. Rend the Heavens or Fuck This Shit – the prompts were apocalyptic, texts of judgment and warning, reminders that the world has always been ending, that Jesus was no stranger to global upheaval and immediate oppression.
It served its purpose. I feel properly purged, emptied, vented, lamented, confessed. It has been a year of major changes for so many of us, and finding the time and space to name them and process them and accept them as the way things are going to be is important.
All of this grief, pain, despair, racism, misogyny, violence and political disaster is real, and all of it has very real consequences for very real people.
God is here.
Not just as a Spirit, not just as a clock-maker, not just as an inaccessible, far away father-figure, but here. In flesh. With us. In the midst of all the grief, pain, despair, racism, misogyny, violence and political disaster. God knows it. God lives it. God was put to death in one of those very real consequences for very real people.
And in some ineffable, cosmic, mystical way, that divine presence, that incarnation, that Emmanuel, that God who would choose to be here, with us, embodied and subject to the indignities of aging, family systems and gravity changes everything.
It means that none of this shit is the last word. None of this shit gets to exercise unmitigated power over us. None of this shit wins, in the end.
Those apocalyptic texts call God down from the Heavens to conquer foes, heal wounds, make a way where there has been no way. They call on God to change the King’s heart, lift up the lowly, throw the powerful down from their thrones, find the lost, serve the least, and guide all of us into the ways of peace. They call on God to work justice and salvation and mercy in places that have been without for so long.
And you know what God does?
God agrees. God answers.
God rends the heavens and comes right on down to do every one of those things.
God has done it – that’s what we celebrate today. God rent the heavens and joined us here, on earth, in flesh.
And God does it again and again and again.
Every time we lament, every time we confess, every time we learn some new truth or engage some new perspective. Every time we pray, every time we serve, every time we consider the flesh and bone of neighbors and strangers with care and compassion. Every time we – the Body of Christ – act as Jesus did, and every time we – the household of God – trust in God’s presence and power the heavens get rent. God arrives on the scene.
The trick is that it never looks the way we expect it to. That arrival rarely comes with robes and thrones and trumpet blasts. It’s quieter and more human. Silent nights, mangers, grubby travelers and emergency births. It’s not in the halls of power, but tucked away elsewhere, slowly building and growing like mustard seed, like kudzu, like lanterns being lit one by one.
And just like it’s important to lament and grieve and name the pain, it is equally important to watch and hope and seek out those glimpses and glimmers of heavens rent in two.
Here’s to a blessed Christmas season, on the lookout for shimmering lights, glowing and growing steadily
until the new dawn from on high breaks upon us,
giving light to all those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death;
guiding all our feet into the way of peace.