Here I Come!

ChristmasAll Advent, we have been praying, “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Stir up your power, O God, and come.” Now on Christmas Eve, we hear God’s reply, “Okay. Here I come.”

We jump back. We are afraid. Will we be able to control God if he really does stir up his power? Will he be like the whirlwind before whom none of us shall remain standing? Will he be like the refiner’s fire that burns the impurities out of us? This evening he cries in warning, “Here I come, ready or not.”

Yet none of us sitting here in this quiet, darkened, beautiful nave appears too disturbed. We have been through many previous Advents and Christmases.

We know when God stirs up his power, he comes as a fragile, helpless baby. He is one of us, just as vulnerable as we are. He comes in the same way we came, as a human child, without any of the things that harm or protect. Like us, he is born in pain. Like us he suffers, he hurts. Like us he dies.

“Stir up your power, O Lord, and come,” we pray, because we are very comfortable with people like ourselves. Yet again our apparent calm should not deceive anyone. Those who have considered seriously, know we have more to fear from the child than from the whirlwind and the fire. We know his very helplessness has a power that controls us.

I think of two examples. The first is a video we watched a few weeks ago in which two black children are laughing as they play on a sliding board. The camera is placed at the bottom of the slide, and at one point it peers up to a child at the top who cries, “ Here I come.” That cry has stayed in my ears all Advent. “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.” The child at the top cries, “Here I come. Catch me.” I am at the bottom of the slide. I must catch her, because she is coming, ready or not. I could drop her by accident, if I am not careful. I could drop her on purpose. I could walk away in indifference, but she would still come, and she would still fall. She makes no demands, just cries, “ Here I come.” So the Christ Child warns, “ Here I come.” I know I shall never be the same. I cannot simply watch.

The second image goes back to when we brought Franz home from the hospital right after his birth. I sat down in the large chair to have a man-to-man talk with my new son. I felt very proud. “Now, Son, this is your father speaking…” Franz began to cry. I realized I was not in control. This baby made demands by his very helplessness. Henceforth, I would be a lover or an abuser. In fear, I handed the baby back to Faith Ann who was no more prepared than I. And she held him for many years and fed him and taught him as I went forth to “save the world” and build my power base. It was only years after that I grew to realize the world is saved by her kind of love and not my kind of power.

So too, the baby Jesus disturbs us with his vulnerability. I am called to love him or abuse him or neglect him, and to neglect is to abuse.

We want to protest that babies grow up. They learn about real life, about whirlwinds and fires. They learn how to protect themselves. But we know Jesus did not. He remained vulnerable as a child. He associated with the oppressed and outcast, those without the normal protections of life. He knew the sufferings of the weak, the patience of the meek, the hunger of poor folk, the loneliness of the lost. Jesus never took for himself the things that protect. When afflicted, he did not open his mouth. He remained at our mercy. He always allowed us to do with him as we wish, and we have. He allowed us to make him suffer and we did. He allowed us to kill him and we did.

It is this passive love that frightens us, this passive mercy which allows us to do anything we please, that undoes us. None of us leaves the Christ for intellectual reasons. We leave, because we are afraid Jesus will draws us out into God’s mysterious love, out to where we cannot return. We leave, because we must reject his kind of power. We are too busy saving the world with our kind of power.

And when our kind of power gets us into more and more desperate situations, because we live in a world that loves little, abuses much, and neglects even more, while remaining oh so sophisticated. When our kind of power gets us into those desperate situations, we continue to call on God to stir up his power and come into our lives. “ Come, God, save my marriage. Come, God, send me love. Come, God, heal me. Come, God, bring peace. Come God, rescue me.” We want him to come in the power of the whirlwind, the force of the fire and to subdue all that threatens us. We want him to come in the kind of power we understand.

On Christmas Eve we proclaim, “Here he comes.” And we acknowledge He comes not as whirlwind and fire but as he always does. It is this fragile, vulnerable child who saves the world. Sometimes he comes as an underprivileged child at the top of a sliding board, crying “Here I come.” And we the whisper, “When you do it to her, you do it to me.” It is this caring love, such as a mother for a child that shall sustain the world.

We all know this truth. We simply have not understood it. And so I confess, “I have uttered what I do not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I do not know myself” (Job 42:3).

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