God can be a dog at times.
You know how it is? Come down on Christmas morning and look under the tree. The kids are squealing with delight because their surprise gift is wriggling in a large bag with a red bow. They look inside and the exclamations of delight fill the room as the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen flops into their arms, pink tongue flicking one hundred lickings per second.
Fast forward ten months and the puppy is a dog. Everyone’s discovered there’s more to this bundle of growing fur than ‘cute’. It has to be fed, exercised, and if neglected messes appear. It runs inside on four huge muddy paws with a total disregard for neat floors. When drenched from a walk in the rain or chasing sticks at the lake he shakes himself with abandon, as if he was the only living creature in the world – who cares if you get drenched in the process of his drying off!
Christmas is the best of times and the worst of times.
Countless multitudes naively treat God like a puppy, or the star of the manger scene where little children pretending to be angels provide a photogenic memory in the soft glow of candles. There’s nothing wrong with that of course when it provides a significant moment in the life of a child. But if that’s where it ends, as the annual theme framed with traditions and family rituals, then the whole purpose has been lost.
Kneeling at the manger next to the baby Jesus is an invitation to peep through the keyhole of heaven’s doorway and share a glimpse of the wonder of God. To be given the privilege of experiencing a minute exposure to the awesomeness of the Creator. The only One who can shape a universe of infinite galaxies and enter into the pinhead form of a baby..
The baby won’t gurgle in the manger forever any more than the puppy will remain quiet in a bag. Those places are merely where we get to meet one another in safety and without fear.
If we read between the lines of the first Christmas there was nothing resembling predictable, tidy, understandable, or safe. It was like God was bouncing all over the place licking faces, interrupting conversations, upsetting plans and disrupting traditions.
Think of old Zechariah, shuffling into the Temple and going about his duty…. same as he’d done for years. Familiar words, smells, symbols, and form. He’d long ago given up and forgotten his prayer for a child. Then suddenly into this dusty environment where nothing new was anticipated an angel appears and his ‘granny’ wife is going to have a baby! “Well you asked, remember?”
“But I wasn’t expecting this,” God shakes his fur, licks his face and smiles, “Welcome to my world.” Zechariah shrugs and can’t even speak. There’s another surprise – to have his voice taken away until the birth of his miraculous baby boy.
In the disheveled parade of incredulous participants in the first Christmas we could include Elizabeth of course (Zechariah’s wife), Mary, Joseph, their family and friends, an Inn Keeper, shepherds, Herod, Simeon and Anna (who’d held the baby Jesus and prophesied over him shortly after his birth), and no doubt others whom we’ve never heard of.
Almost everyone adored the ‘puppy’.
Fast forward again thirty three years and the cries reached a crescendo, “He’s got to be put down.”
What brought about such a change of mindset that caused the ‘cute’ to become the ‘curse’?
We were looking for something to make us feel better for a while. A comforting moment, family around a turkey, carols by candlelight, gifts unwrapped – a tribute to the love of God revealed in Jesus. A wonderfully inspiring sentiment that we wish was really true; however this far less perfect real world is our experience from day to day. But every year it’s good to be reminded…..
God was intending much more than capturing a soundbite, millions of ‘likes’ on Facebook for a day, one moment in history and a star in Bethlehem. The innocence of his ‘coming’ was only comprehended by Herod of all people; he wasn’t going to wait for thirty three years to slaughter Jesus, “Get the job done now.”
This baby was dynamite. The door of heaven was opened like never before by His presence (way better than presents) and the world was entering into a season never anticipated and way beyond human control.
Christmas is the time we remember with unspeakable gratitude the humility and grace of God; who loves so deeply that he’d stoop so low to enable us discover our true identity and purpose. We were like strays who’d wandered the streets hungry and cold all our lives and at last we were found and invited home.
Don’t treat God like a puppy. He’s a great big God, full or surprises; and yes, he acts like He owns the place! Get used to it. But when He’s kissed your face ‘with a sloppy wet kiss’ you’ll never be the same again. Have yourself a really messy Christmas! 🙂