God can be overwhelming. We forget that in the church sometimes. We forget that God is not tame or predictable or safe. God is that which does not go away when you ignore it. God is powerful and present – always. God is.
In many ways, the Renaissance church was an abusive church. We remember clearly the offences of popes and prelates who used their spiritual authority to exercise earthly power. Much of the Reformation, in England and on the continent, was driven by a desire to rescue the church from human weakness, which had become far too entrenched. Even today, many liberal Christians rebel against the idea of a too-personal God because it reminds them of the kinds of oppression humans support when they have that much power. Meanwhile conservative Christians cling to a very personal and authoritarian God for exactly the same reason – a desire to limit the whims of fallible mortals. In both cases, we cling to fear. God asks us to be not afraid. God asks that we open our hearts and minds to revelation.
Jesus was not the expected Messiah. He did not follow the common narrative of political revolutionary and triumphant king. Instead he engaged with the people of Israel, the lost sheep and sinners. He ate with them, traveled with them, prayed with them. He even argued with them in the Temple square. God cared more about the exchange than the expectation, more about people than prophecy. He called them friends. And to this day, Jesus calls us friends. How will we respond?
The problem with a predictable God is that he will always be limited by your imagination. You will never see visions, or experience transcendence, or be overcome by joy. This is the God of Advent, the God who is infinitely more than we could ask or imagine. Open your hearts this season to the possibility of God going beyond your conception. Open your hearts to a God whose gifts are mysteriously wrapped and inscrutable – because those are the best kind. They fill needs you never knew you had and offer to take you out of yourself – no matter how comfortable you might be.
Be surprised by joy. Be transported by delight. Be overcome. For that is the gift God offers – not the spiritual equivalent of socks under the Christmas tree, but a fabulous and extraordinary toy that is also a tool and a piece of art. God gives more and more mysteriously than we expect. I invite you to look for this type of love and joy, expect it, revel in it – and, of course, share it with your brothers and sisters.
Unfold our hearts to your love, O heart of my heart.
Giver of all good gifts, source of life and light,
open our eyes to wonder
that we might receive tearfully and joyfully
the offering of your creation.
Surprise us with grace.
Fill us with such love that we overflow into the world,
in wonder and awe
that such grace should flow
from our heart, our lips and hands. Amen.