Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Service

God's Astrology

We come to this place week after week, month after month, year after year, and we work together at the seemingly impossible task of untangling God and putting into words the unspeakable mystery of faith. We are searching for even a single strand of his holiness to hang onto and follow down the length of our lives like fingers following down the beads of a rosary. And sometimes we are laid flat by grief, and sometimes we are laid flat by joy, and sometimes we just lie there, watching the world turn and the time tick,and wonder at the meaning of it all. We are so small; God is so vast. But somehow in the midst of all this wandering and wondering God lets himself be found by us. And once, he let himself be found inside a skin sack and blood vessels, two hundred and six bones, a brain and a spine, heart and lungs, fingernails and a belly button.

I know.

I can hardly believe it myself.

But then, I also have a hard time believing that a whale can hold its breath for an hour, that salmon swim thousands of miles back to their natal stream to spawn, that the earth is deeper than it is high, that 300 million cells are dying in my body every minute, or that an oak tree gives off twenty eight thousand gallons of moisture a season.

The earth is full of your glory.

Tonight, as we come together and celebrate this holy shrinking of God into a child, I am wondering at the ways we are brought to see the face of his glory. As much as I can, I understand the callings of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and Simeon, and Anna the prophetess, they make sense in their smallness and chosen-ness and salt of the earth faithfulness. But then there are the wise men, and there is the star.
Consider the star.
Consider this: that once there were men, astrologers, living in a distant land who studied the skies and ordered their lives by the arrangements of those lights. And they were called wise. And they were wise, because they understood from the stars what God’s own people failed to see: that creation itself was bearing witness to this event: that God was entering history on humanity’s terms. And from this new born light, and their charts and calculations, and language full of words like “birth star”, and “alignment”, “precession of the equinox”, and “celestial houses”, these men found God, and the finding bowed them down in worship. And God spoke to them in dreams. And they moved and lived their lives accordingly.

But what does this mean, that these men who were wise in the ways that are not God’s ways, found God?

That Jesus was born to a virgin, that only the poor and lowly shepherds heard the angel choir, and that star gazing wise men found him first smacks of anarchy. It all points to a no holds barred holy heyday. It is God letting his hair down. Heaven exultant. Rocks crying out, trees clapping hands. It is rules being broken, predictability shattered, salmon swimming upstream, whales holding their breath, and oak trees weeping. It is heaven come down, heaven come down, heaven come down, and glory filling our souls. Our stable. Our earth. The star leading the wise men is God all pure desire, all reaching out, all hands held up in the air palms out, saying only, “Come, just come, come unto me.”

We are celebrating tonight the miracle of God made vulnerable, but vulnerable not only in his tiny hands and new born body, but in his desire for us. He has opened himself to our wounding rejection. And he’s pulled out all the stops. The sky cracked open and sang its heart out, the prophecies wove together and birthed a truth, and the stars, the night sky, aligned itself to point the way to this exposed God for anyone that might be paying attention. This, like all of God, is a great mystery, and as any wise man or woman would tell you, the only thing to be done with mystery is to hold on tight to the clues, and follow where they lead.


Anonymous said...

So beautiful so profound. Thank you for finding words to make the season rich and meaningful.

JB said...

This is so good I had to link to it on my blog. The word I wish to use today to describe your writing is: compelling.

We watched "The Nativity Story" with the two older kids a few days ago. Have you seen it? Astrologers = wise men. Crazy.

Mike S said...

Thoughts of a seeking mind thoughtfully expressed. A little faith goes a long way when properly guided.

Hope you made it through the 'chilly weather' spell okay.

deanna said...

I would have loved to sit and listen to you reading. That I could take in a beautiful service with people here sharing what sounds like the same wonder, while you composed and shared it for the flesh and blood people around you, is a true and great gift.

Angela said...

thanks for cheering me on, karen!

no, janna, i haven't seen the nativity story, but i tell you, a few months ago i read a fantastic book where astrology played a minor role and i'm really loving that plot line lately.
thanks again for the link.

we didn't get as cold as they guessed we would. no worries. it'll come. it does every year.

i love reading my stuff out loud. i love reading anything out loud. i get really excited when people ask me to read anything, even just a bible verse in bible study. the only thing is the stuff i read out loud (that i've written)is usually pretty thick, and people get lost, and everyone wants copies after i've read because it's a lot to take in and i don't always think about follow-ability when i write, as much as i think: i like the way those words sound together. it's alright if i'm making big logical leaps.
you know?

deanna said...

You're stuff's thick like the best pudding. If you would get a video made of you reading anything of yours and post it, my feet would get sweet. :o) Really. I'd love it.

shannon said...

I wish I still believed the way you do. I love your writing so much. It stops me in my tracks. I have to swallow my jealousy before I can celebrate it. But I always get there. You leave so much to celebrate and ponder.

I'm glad you're you. I'm glad you're here.

Angela said...

i'm probably crossing some serious theological boundaries here, but i've been thinking about your comment all day -about you saying you wished you still believed the way i do. i've been thinking about our overblown north american individualism, and our lonely longing for community, and i can't help but wonder about communal faith -if maybe we're allowed to believe for each other when the believing falters, or fails, or flat out dies. i don't mean believing in an "i-know-better-than-you" sort of way, but in an "i'm-keeping-your-spot-warm-while-your-gone" sort of way.

i don't know. i hope that doesn't sound arrogant. i like to think that what i believe is more communal than individualistic. if the natural world is all tied together from ecosystem to ecosystem, why not our souls, too? i came and went and came again in faith. i still do. i need my place holders. i don't mind being one when i can be.

i don't know. i've been reading about monks and saints and monastic life for a couple of weeks now. they're all so connected and it feels like we've got so much of it all wrong here and now.