Advent – the unrecognisable God
“The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.”
I am away from home at the moment and where I am I haven’t seen many Christmas trees or tinsel. I am looking forward to all that when I return. This is how we celebrate his birth and we love it. I do think God could have done the birth of Jesus on a grander scale. There was always that danger that people would not recognise Him, that He be missed. He was. Isaiah says there was no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. Did God do this on purpose I wonder?
I love a carol service. There are many going on during this week. The Churches this year have done amazingly well with reports of record crowds around the world with some creative and attractive ways of presenting the story. We work hard to try and get people to recognise Him. But God seemed to want not to be recognised. Jesus looked human, too human, ‘isn’t this Mary’s boy?!”
The big question is where will His church be this advent? God is not always in the earthquake, the wind and the fire, but the quiet whisper. God was to be found in the humanness of pain, of the spit and dirt of life. That is where He was and is. Where is the church? Can we become vulnerable to the core and humbled by brokenness. Can we be known as one who smells because we sit with those who smell?
Maybe many will not recognise Jesus again this advent. Maybe they will sing the carols without thinking about the words. But for some they will find a new life, a light will dawn in their life. They will realise that the baby born in Bethlehem is now the risen and exalted Son of God who came for them, to die and to rise again. They will recognise him perhaps because the Church has not been afraid to become dirty, stripped of its glitter, meek, innocent, vulnerable and surrendered.
Maybe at the first advent God had to be unrecognisable. He had to hide himself from the glory and the glitter. The apostle Paul thinks so. The unrecognisable God in Jesus was condemned and thus fulfilled the prophecy of salvation by way of His death. In His mercy He came to die and with justice He made sure His world could live.
“Justice now revokes the sentence,
Mercy calls you; break your chains”
(Lyrics found within the carol, Angels from the Realms of Glory)
Today our task is not to keep Jesus unrecognisable, it is not to paint a Christmas which is only full of tinsel, it is not a holiday it is a Holy Day.
The world needs to recognise that Jesus came unrecognisable for them.
There was no other way.
This is the mission.