God Tore Open Heaven
My daughter called me last week. It sure is nice when you get to that stage in life when your kids call just to say hi. There’s no emergency. They’re not asking for money. There’s no heartbreak. They just call to talk.
“So, how are you Dad?” “Well, you know, ’tis the season.” “You sound tired and Christmas is just starting.” “Yea, but you know how it is. I’ve been doing Christmas since the beginning of November. It’s all the prep work that gets you. Once we actually get into Christmas, things will level themselves out.”
“So, what’s happening with you for Christmas?” I ask my daughter. Just remember that my daughter lives in Haliburton. “Well, Jay (her boyfriend) and I are going to his office party in Toronto on the 20th. Then we have a party at the clinic (where she works in Haliburton Village) and after that we’re going to Mom’s on Saturday because Uncle Andy and his family is coming up. Then we are going to Jay’s family (in Toronto) for Christmas Eve and then on Tuesday we’re going to his sister’s place in Ayr for a family gathering.” We then worked out a time for us to get together.
I’m sure that many of your calendars look much the same. Now add to this the shopping, the decorating, the arranging of family gatherings, the special school concerts, the Robert Woods Singers concert this afternoon, the Community Carol Sing here tonight, the WOW Christmas dinner, the pot-luck lunch, the Christmas specials to watch, the movies you’d like to see like “The Man Who Invented Christmas” about Charles Dickens writing A Christmas Carol or the music of Charlie Brown Christmas being present at the First Performance Centre or A Christmas Carol at the Royal George in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I just need to catch my breath for a minute.
Amid all this, you take the time to be here today. I sincerely want to thank you for that, because in this sacred place today we have heard an ancient wisdom, an eternal wisdom that breaks into our lives, and shakes us into the reality that our time is not really our own. Our time is not really our own
Oh, we like to pretend that our time is our own. But the reality of life is this; our time is really oriented by God’s time. Always has been and always will be. We like to think we can manage our own time efficiently and plan accordingly. That by sheer determination we can bend time to our own needs and desires. What are all those quotes we use about time? ‘Time heals all wounds.’ ‘All in good time.’ ‘Time will tell.’ ‘Stand the test of time.’ ‘Time is of the essence.’ We believe some of these but most do not prove themselves to us in the realities we live. All these quotes really do is make us aware of our attempts to make our own marks on time.
In the midst of all our planning to get everything ready and fit everything into Christmas, the wisdom of Advent calls out to us and says, ‘This season is not about getting ready or even being ready because, can you ever be ready for God’s coming? Can we ever be ready for God entering into our humanity, into our brokenness, into our pain and loss, into our joy, into our love, into our longing?’ This season is about learning to wait expectantly.
Did we grasp Isaiah’s opening words to us this morning? God’s desire to be with God’s children is so great that God ‘tears open the heavens to descend and be with us. It is God who does the tearing. It is God who takes the action of bridging the gap between us. We are not in control of any of this. God will not be managed into our December calendar of events.
Isaiah reminds us that we are clay. God, the potter, not only has the power to mold us but actually wants to mold us. Understand the intimacy involved in God’s action. Isaiah is depicting God as one who wants to thrust God’s hands into our lives, and with the clay of our lives seeping through God’s fingers, seeks to remold us into new vessels. There’s the hope for today.
In his wisdom, Isaiah says that hope is for today and for the future.
God will tear open the heavens in our time, in our time of wars against ISIS, in our time of taunting nuclear war between the US and North Korea, in our time of natural disasters, in our time of sexual abuse allegations, in our time of where children are still dying of starvation, in all of this time God will still thrust God’s hands into the messiness our lives and mold us into God’s divine image and likeness. If, if… we choose to surrender to this. If we stop trying to manage our celebrations of God’s incarnation into this world with our calendars and to simply stop and let God’s spirit into our lives. It is then we will know peace.
How do we know this? It’s reality that was made clear when God molded the divine self on Christmas day into an impoverished, displaced infant. Don’t miss this. Let this truth seep into your hearts. God molded God’s divine self into a an impoverished, displaced infant. God became clay, became our clay. Clay is messy. Omnipotent God left the glory of God’s celestial throne to delve into the clay of our lives. Look beyond the Hallmark card portrait of Mary’s child sleeping serenely in a manger.
When God tore open the heavens to descend to earth, God entered the lives of a displaced couple, into their world of poverty and repression, into their world of abuse of power, into their world where a paranoid King starting the ethic cleansing of all Jewish boys under the age of two, causing these young parents to seek the asylum of another country, becoming refugees themselves.
God disrupted their time, displaced their time, disoriented their time. It was not a comfortable occurrence and, to be honest, it still is not. God came to transform our time and that means changing our realities as much as God changed Mary and Joseph’s. causing us to let go of the things we might cherish, letting go of some of the values and ideals we hold onto that give us power and identity in our worlds.
We must recognize that remolding our lives into new vessels, that bending and shaping may prove to be painful. What God does at Christmas is more that eggnog and butter cookies. It’s incarnation. It’s the promise of transformation. The wisdom for today is this. Stop thinking that you alone can make Christmas. Stop rushing past today. Advent will never be long enough to get it all done. But that is the whole point. God arrives regardless of our readiness. God tears open the heavens and shows ups despite our determination to manifest our own destiny.
Divinity has and will take on our mortality, eternity continues to enter the temporal, love continues to eliminate death, and the significance of time is changed forever. Simply surrender to that fact that God sees you as sacred clay. Surrender. Surrender to Advent time.