St. Andrew's
United Church of Christ

1320 Spruce Street, Reading, PA  19602-2161
"More than a Century of Service to the City"

Message From the Pastor

"Our God Comes to Us"

When God's people Israel gathered about Mount Sinai, the holy mountain of God, they were afraid, what with the thunder and lightning, the blast of ceremonial trumpets, and the mountain smoking. Although God's intent was to speak so that all could hear, the people themselves prevailed upon Moses, instead, to act as intermediary. Barriers were erected at the base of the mountain, delineating the point beyond which the people could not go, lest the holiness of God's being consume them. And they were wise to be afraid. We remember the story of Ahio and Uzzah, the sons of Abinadab who drove the new cart transporting the ark of God up to Jerusalem for King David. At some point in the journey, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark on the cart, and he was immediately struck dead! (2 Samuel 6:1-15) It is not without reason, then, that the Psalmist has observed, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." (111:10a)

In the mystery of Incarnation, God is made man, becoming human, begotten and born of the virgin Mary, the Holy One is now enfleshed. In the warm candlelit glow of Christmas Eve worship, we bask in God's non-threatening presence--the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay. Not in earthquake, wind, or fire, but in the sound of sheer silence we experience God with us: "How silently, how silently The wondrous gift is given!" Our mind's eye has carefully sanitized the scene for us. This stable doesn't smell, and should the baby awake, the tableau includes a host of others (parents, shepherds, and kings) to attend to Jesus' needs.

The truth is that we have thoroughly domesticated our God. We prefer not to think about an Old Testament Being whose proximity to humankind always threatened to cause a fatal outbreak of holiness, righteousness, justice, light, peace, and truth that would utterly destroy any and all in close attendance. We pretend that the baby Jesus was never fussy, hungry, or in need of a change of diaper. We gloss over the stories of the adult Jesus, who drove the dove-sellers from the Temple and overturned the tables of the money-changers, who told his closest companion Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" and who with a single, brief command was able to revivify the three-day-old rotting corpse of his friend Lazarus. In the minds of too many who would call themselves Christian, the God who comes to us is One who (1) knows His place, (2) comes when called, (3) makes no demands on us, and (4) offers us an unending supply of affirmation, love, and grace.

"What a friend we have in Jesus," we sing, "All our sins and griefs to bear!" But what a friend does Jesus find in you and me, if he cannot ask or expect anything of us? In the miracle of the Nativity, God comes to us in approachable form: who would be afraid of a mere infant? Now, though, we must draw close enough to recognize not just what God offers us in this relationship, but also what God asks of us. And a little less "ah," and a lot more awe might be in order.

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