Advent: Hard Sayings: God With Us!

Post a Comment » Written on December 5th, 2008     
Filed under: News
CHICAGO, IL (December 5, 2008) – John Weborg is Professor Emeritus of Theology at North Park Theological Seminary and a longtime columnist for The Covenant Companion. Each Friday during Advent, we will share one of his columns that originally appeared in the magazine. Today’s installment first appeared in December 1993.

By Dr. John Weborg

Annie Dillard says that, “It is the fault of infinity to be too small to find.” Might it also be the fault of God to be too small to find? That a person needs to look once, twice, even three times before one can find God, nearly always more hidden than revealed? Like Luther said, “God on the straw,” overshadowed by his parents, dwarfed by animals, swallowed by a cave. Too small to find.

In even more provocative speech, Luther said that if we had been at the city well in Nazareth, and Jesus had come to get water, whether for Mary to cook with or Joseph to use in carpentry, we could either say, “there goes Jesus carrying a bucket of water, or “there goes God carrying a bucket of water.” Both would be correct. Is it the fault of God to be too small to be found? Is it also the fault of God to be too hidden, too overshadowed, too dwarfed, too swallowed up in something else to be found?

“As Paul Tillich said, Christianity started in the cemetery, not at the cradle.”

It isn’t only Christmas that possesses this issue. What about the irony of God overwhelmed by a political system that put him to death? In a way, the cross dwarfed him – imagine, God strung up on a cross. And the grave swallowed him – the big black hole of death consumed him in its voracious appetite to prove that life cannot win and that love, if disappointed long enough and disillusioned repeatedly, will give in to the obvious: the foolishness of committing oneself to anyone or anything.

But then, as Paul Tillich said, Christianity started in the cemetery, not at the cradle. Might it be the fault of God to be too hidden, always seeming to show up under opposites – in straw, on a cross, in a tomb, yes, even stalking cemeteries? God shows up where God is most needed, not as the stoic observer or as the hero showing up at the last minute, greedy for glory and gluttonous for gain. This God in Jesus, carrying buckets of water, washing the feet of others, touching lepers, enjoying meals with outcasts, praying for his killers – this God appears too small to find and too hidden to be helpful.

Wherever the need is the greatest, the testing severe, the pressure enormous, and someone comes along to pick up the load with us, it is the same God in Christ who carried buckets of water, showing that it is not the fault, but the genius and gift of the Infinite to be so small as almost not to be found. Those whom he joins along the way often feel that small anyway.

Immanuel: God with us!

Left to ourselves we shall but stray,
O lead us on the narrow way,
With wisest counsel guide us;
And give us steadfastness, that we
May henceforth truly follow thee,
Whatever woes betide us.
Heal thou gently
Hearts now broken, give some token
Thou art near us,
Whom we trust to light and cheer us.

“O Holy Spirit, Enter In”

Editor’s note: to read a previously published column as part of this special Advent series, search for the following story:
•    Advent: Holiday Time and the Fullness of Time

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog