A telemarketer called a home one day and Little Johnny answered. In a small voice Johnny whispered, “Hello?” The telemarketer said, “Hello! What’s your name?” Still whispering, the voice said, “Johnny.” “How old are you, Johnny?” “I’m four.” “Good. Is your mother home?” “Yes, but she’s busy.” “Okay, is your daddy home?” “He’s busy too.” “I see, who else is there?” “The police.” “The police? May I speak with one of them?” “They’re busy.” “Any other grown-ups there?” “The firemen.” “May I speak with a fireman, please?” “They’re all busy.” “Johnny, all those people in your house, and I can’t talk with any of them? What are they doing?” With a little snicker and a bit too gleefully Johnny whispered, “Looking for me.”
If we go back to, “In the beginning, God created…”, we hear the story of the creation of the world and humankind. Once Adam and Eve are safe in the Garden, God gives them that one little command: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Sounds easy enough, but enter the serpent, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened.” And they were. “The eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”
Not only were they naked physically, but through their disobedience they had become naked spiritually. They became aware of sin, of evil – not only outside of themselves, but in – and they became aware of the distance that now existed between them and God. What did they do? “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”
Like Little Johnny hiding from everyone, Adam and Eve hid from God; yet truly hiding from God is not possible. As the Lord declares, “Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?” says the Lord; Do I not fill heaven and earth says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:24) Even so, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God and, like them, many of us continue in that same spiritual game of hide-and-seek. Why? Because when we wonder what God is doing, we often think, “Looking for me.” And why is He looking for us? So that He can smite us! He is up there right now looking for who has been naughty or nice (and that’s none of you lot!) and when He’s got His sites set on the naughty – Blam!
We have this idea of who we think God is: omnipotent and omnipresent. He is everywhere, He knows everything, and He can’t wait to take us out. He is constantly looking to nitpick our every move and punish us for our indiscretions. But what if I told you that was a lie? What if I told you that this is a god we’ve created ourselves?
I may have shared this with you before, but if so, it is worth repeating. It is from a teaching by Brennan Manning. He begins by quoting the French philosopher Blaise Pascal, “God made man in his own image, and man returned the compliment.” Manning adds, “We often make God in our own image, and He winds up to be as fussy, rude, narrow minded, legalistic, judgmental, unforgiving, unloving as we are.” But that man-made image of God simply is not true, and the proof of that was born in a manger.
“There were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’”
This child, Jesus, would grow into a man and then proclaim His purpose, God’s purpose — and it has absolutely nothing to do with smiting.
Jesus said, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” (John 12:46)
Jesus said, “I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
There is a proper fear of God. St. Josemaría Escrivá writes: “‘The fear of the Lord is Holy.’ This fear is a son’s veneration for his Father — never servile fear. [Never cringing or shrinking fear.] For, your Father, is not a tyrant.”
Our Father who is in Heaven is not a tyrant. He is not seeking out ways to crush His creation. He is seeking us, so that He might save us. He is seeking us, so that we may have life. He is seeking us, so that He might love us.
The manger of Our Lord proclaims His great love for us. There is no need to hide from. When He calls to you, answer Him by saying, “Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9) Then step into His presence and the full light of His glory.
The light of God surrounds us,
The love of God enfolds us,
The power of God protects us,
The presence of God watches over us.
Wherever we are, God is,
And where God is, all is well.
Let us pray: Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel’s song, for infant’s cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wisemen. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.