Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The God of surprises

I try not to let a Christmas season go by without marveling at the outright scandalousness that the God of the universe subjected himself to. His odd conception, whispered about with disdain. His first bed, dirty hay. His first visitors, shepherds, the lowest on the social totem pole. He wasn't just born into ordinary circumstances — that wouldn't have been too hard — but extraordinarily lousy ones. It's the first act of a story full of drama, of the unexpected, of a reversal of expectations.

Andrew Greeley's book "Jesus," which I am still working at quoting all the parts I loved, deals with this idea that God is not interested in carrying out his work among humanity in a perfunctory way ("Here you go, here's the plan of salvation, just in case you're interested") but in a shocking way. It's like he wants to see the look of wonder on our faces. One cannot imagine Jesus appearing to his disciples in the upper room with anything but relish.
"The Father-in-Heaven delights in mystery. ... In my more troublemaking moods I contend that God is a comedienne, sometimes even a playful teenage comedienne who enjoys mystery, wonder, and especially surprise — and surprise parties. More seriously I argue that it is God's nature to play, that God has no other choice but to play and love because that is what God is."

"There surely would have been other ways in which he could have revealed himself to them [in the upper room] that would have been more orderly, more restrained, less emotional, less spectacular. And less surprising. But like his Father-in-Heaven ... Jesus did not believe in laid-back surprises, low-key revelations, modest demonstrations that life was stronger than death. Rather he let the expectations build up, the tensions reach a fever pitch, fear skepticism, and joy mingle in a dangerous cocktail and then, quite dramatically, proclaim peace."
Peace to you all this Christmas season.

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