When I was growing up one of my favorite things was reading the daily comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” There was one that I saw again recently that stuck with me.
Now if you haven’t seen “Calvin and Hobbes” (which means you are far younger than I, or you have been off the proverbial grid) let me give just a bit of background. Calvin is a boy and Hobbes is his stuffed animal tiger and imaginary friend.
In this particular scene Calvin and Hobbes are talking about Santa and Christmas. Calvin said, “This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever just show himself and prove it? And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all of this?
Hobbes then said, “I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?”
And Calvin replied, “Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.”
What is the meaning of all of this without God? There are those who say that humanity has created God out of a need to create meaning. All religions have some kind of transcendent being or beings or ground of being from which meaning is somehow derived. These Gods are shrouded in mystery.
The prophet Isaiah recalls that God said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways.” That sums up what many religions claim we can know about God.
However, those of us who profess Christ as Lord believe something else. We claim that God, the God of universe who created all that is seen and unseen, entered into space and time and was born as a human.
We do not have a completely transcendent God. Our God, we believe, was born at a certain place and time, full of grace and truth.
Of course this does not make a lick of sense. It causes religious people of other religions to laugh at the absurdity of it all, and it makes non-believers think we are even more ridiculous. It is an absurd claim and we would do well to remember that. We claim that God showed up and we were able to discover in the person of Jesus who God is.
I suppose this is partially what Paul meant when he said he was a fool for Christ. Sometimes we simply must decide to be foolish. There are no reasons we can give that will convince a skeptic.
There are some people who still ask those questions Calvin wondered allowed to Hobbes. Why all of the secrecy? Why all of the mystery? If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever just show himself and prove it? And if doesn’t exist what is the meaning of all of this?
Soon we will be celebrating the event that challenges logic and theology and throws everything into the blender and messes it up. We will be celebrating that somehow or another God showed up. Now God did not prove it in such a way that no one would never doubt again, God does not work that way.
When we think of God we think of high and mighty, and yet God showed up being birthed by an unwed teenage mother in a barn where cows and donkeys were on hand.
When we think of God we think of power the likes of which we could never comprehend and yet there is God, a little baby who needs parents like all little babies need parents.
We pray to God to alter our circumstances and our lives and give us riches and fame and whatever else. Yet we pray to a God who became a homeless travelling preacher, who died a criminal’s death abandoned by those he called friends.
God showed up and proved himself and still we find it hard to believe, because the God who showed up is not who we were expecting. Instead of a God who judges and condemns and smites, we discovered a God who loves and saves and forgives. A God who puts himself at our mercy and then judges us when we try to kill Jesus by making sure that our worst is not enough. A defeated grave is proof of God’s judgment, and Jesus running wild in the world loving and saving and forgiving still is the meaning in all of this.
Once Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one can get to the Father except through me.” Maybe he meant that we are to stop running from him and let him love and save and forgive us and then follow him and be like him, and then discover in our being like him that we have been with the Father the whole time. What if Christmas is about loving and saving and forgiving, and a God who would do anything at all to do those things? Well that changes everything.
Go into Christmas sisters and brothers prepared to change everything, because that is what God is about to do too.