Sunday, December 26, 2004

Alleluia! He is here

I heard Martha Butler's song "Alleluia, He Is Coming" performed at church several times during Advent. It's one of those songs that can bring tears to my eyes. It's full of longing for Christ, longing for the presence of God, God that we can know, God who became human.

I looked up and I saw my Lord a-coming
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-coming
down the road
Alleluia He is coming, alleluia He is here
Alleluia He is coming, alleluia He is here

You see, God is too big for my mind to begin to comprehend. But Jesus puts a human face on God, and I can relate to this. God is real in a tangible, touchable way, through Jesus Christ.

I can visualize Jesus. I hold a perfect image of him in my mind's eye: He has a long, ovular face; his cheekbones and nose are a bit sharp. He has large, liquid, chocolate-brown eyes, from which his compassion radiates. He has brown skin and wavy, chestnut-colored hair.

I can even see the hairs on his shins.

This is God we can know, God who walks among us and speaks to us. God who teaches his disciples.

In reading the prophets, we get a picture of a Messiah who is not a handsome man. Yet he is able to draw thousands to him. They follow him out into the countryside and out onto the hillsides. Jesus is truly the charismatic man, full of healing, and that compassion that spills out of him like a river flooding its bank. It is too much to contain within him.

Those who are spiritually attuned sense it and follow him. Those who are spiritually dead or asleep don't feel it.

I can almost imagine what it is like to feel his hands touch me as he prays healing for me. I can imagine the warmth of those hands, his human flesh.

I can love him, passionately. I can grieve him. I can repent of my human pride, greed, envy, all the sins that wrenched him pitilessly from this life:

I looked up and I saw my Lord a-dying
I looked up and I saw my Lord a-dying on a tree

Yet, I think it wasn't just to proclaim his reality to us or even to die for love of us that the word became flesh.

It is one thing to know, another thing to experience. I wonder that, even with the might of the universe at his command, even creating us, forming us in our mothers' wombs and knowing us, God had not experienced being human.

Can even God fully know something without experiencing it?

The Bible said he came to dwell among us, literally, to pitch his tent among us.

A tent is a frail and vulnerable thing. It is not meant to be permanent. It is a temporary habitation, for it cannot long withstand the elements. One good storm, and it's gone.

The Word made flesh was subject to the weakness, the frailty, the vulnerability of human beings. He experienced temptation. God became a God at the mercy of the world around him, instead of in divine control. God experienced this.

So, the New Covenant is a covenant of mercy and grace. He showers grace upon us, for he knows, in a new way, that, try as we might, we cannot do it. The world is too much for us spiritual infants. We cannot make ourselves deserving of God's favor.

His love is now even more full of compassion and tenderness. He knows our humanity. He knows what it is to fear the future, to be ravaged by disease, to suffer loss and grieve. To hurt and to be hurt. He has pitched His tent in the middle of it. He has put His flesh-and-blood hands on it.

Oh, little newborn baby Jesus. So weak. So helpless. So tender, held in your mother's arms. So full of promise.

Alleluia, he is here!

I'll look up and I'm gonna see my Lord a-coming
I'll look up and I'm gonna see my Lord a-coming
in the clouds

He will return for us.

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