To Catch a Hurricane in a Shrimp Net
On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, a week before Christmas, the preacher talked of love.
How God's inviolable love is that thing at the center of all reality (Henri Nouwen).
As such, how love becomes the supreme focus of the Christian vision. For the well-being of the world. For a world in need of reconciliation and renewal.
Unflinching, but with a certain humility, the preacher said that God's most descriptive self-revelation to us, and for us, was not and is not "a religious ideal, a philosophical idea or a moral code."
It was—it is, he said—a person.
Love made personal/interpersonal.
Is it true that in Jesus God defied the holy distance and became a human-kind like us?
Here, precisely, Christian faith demands poetry because, well, I suppose it is rather obvious, this is no easy matter to humanly understand.
Let alone accept or embrace.
A miraculous act whereby the one true God of all that is became one with our humanity by becoming a true human being?
But the preacher went further. He said something even more startling.
"There is a greater scandal than the absurdity of the Incarnation," he whispered. "[It is this:] that God would refuse to abandon us, that he refuses to abandon us, that he refuses to not be near us."
Which is as comforting as it is terrifying, I suppose.
Which is why the poet says, "Christ is a shard of glass in your gut."
"Christ is God crying, 'I am here,' Christian Wiman continues, "and here not only in what exalts and completes and uplifts you, but here in what appalls, offends, and degrades you, here in what activates and exacerbates all that you would call not-God."
In poetic fact, then, to understand this ridiculous act of a God who is at the same time completely other, we must imagine Christian faith as an often difficult pilgrimage through "the fog of God toward the clarity of Christ."
In Immanuel—God with us—the poet and the preacher arrive together at faith.
Surely God's refusal to stay away from a personal encounter with me and my kind is the greater scandal of Christianity.
Maybe of all religion.