We are now well into the first week of advent. As we approach the second week of advent, having thought about the heart of our lives, the rhythm of our lives, the shalom of God in my previous post now it’s important to go to the root of how we see God. Part of the calling inherent throughout creation is a pattern, a rhythm of death and resurrection, and the time of advent is very much a time of preparation and renewal.
It allows us to examine ourselves again before God and given that Christmas is about Jesus birth and coming in the flesh, it’s important we examine our attitudes toward how we see God. So what I wish to do today is to examine this more fully – maybe not quite in a way you may expect, but with something I believe is fundamentally important to a healthy view of God and His creation.
So let’s begin in scripture. In Genesis 28 Jacob gets sent away by Issac. Whilst he’s away, in the very same chapter, he lays down to sleep, putting his head on a stone to rest it. The lowest of the low it would seem, totally alone and thrown out, having to lay his head on a stone. But during this sleep he has a dream, a dream about God. God says the following to him: (v 13-15)
“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
This dream is both prophetic and life-changing for Jacob. But it’s not the dream I necessarily want to focus on here. It’s Jacob’s response.
You see I think it has huge implications for us – especially at a time of Advent, where we are preparing for to remember the coming of Jesus.
Jacob responds like this (v16-17):
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
I have highlighted certain words here – for a reason. What Jacob instantly recognises is that God was already in the place he (Jacob) was – he had just been blind to see it. He even starts saying ‘this’ is the gate of heaven – talking about the physical place he was in at that moment as the gate of heaven, the house of God.
Notice, too, what he didn’t say. He didn’t say:
“Another place is none other than the house of God. The house of God is somewhere else and the gate of heaven is somewhere else”
He talks about the house of God and the gate of heaven – and by implication heaven itself – as present realities, here and now. He recognises that what we are living in now, is God’s kingdom, God’s place of residence.
All we need to do to recognise this is have ‘our eyes open to see it’.
How often have you heard the phrase ‘God showed up’ in church or with groups of religous people, or in discussion about some amazing event? I have heard it a lot, people talking about how they prayed and then God miraculously showed up and did these amazing things, speaking to people, giving words or pictures, or even healing.
But hold on.
Doesn’t the whole terminology inherently imply that He wasn’t there before?
Doesn’t that mean God wasn’t there and the decided to suddenly arrive, like some guest? It sounds like a transaction – we do something, then God does something in return.
Is that grace?
Is that a God of unconditional love, grace and mercy?
Plus, we’ve just seen that God was already with Jacob, He was already at work in his life, He was already present with Him – it’s just that Jacob was unaware of it till then.
So surely, when we pray for words and pictures, when we pray for healing, for the spirit of God to ‘show up’, aren’t we praying for the wrong thing?
Isn’t that a false picture or perception of God?
I mean, how often have you seen a beautiful sunset, view of the stars in the sky or the space, or something in creation, a view like that, and you’ve made felt the presence of something divine?Like instinctively you feel like somebody made that sunset, galaxy or view. Maybe you have either made the comment ‘How can people say there’s no creator after a view like that?’ or something similar, at one time or another – or at least felt that impulse.
The reason we get these feelings or react this way? Because God was – is – in that very place – that sunset, that view of the sea or stars, His presence is there, and what they have experienced in that moment was a revelation of the divine presence that was there all along – they were just more open to see it in those sort of views than other, less obvious ones.
Then we still make comments about God ‘showing up’ at Christian events or prayer/worship meetings, instead of understanding He was always there, we just needed to have our eyes opened to see Him. As soon as we did, we became more aware of His presence or physically felt it more – but it was always there, it always is. It’s fundamental to how we see God and how we engage with His creation, and to how we live – all of which is why at Advent it’s so important to confront this.
This passage about Jacob shows us that it’s not a matter of God showing up at all. It’s simply a matter of our eyes being opened to the God who was already present in our midst.
If anyone ‘shows up’, it’s us. Isn’t it?
Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven like this too. He came here to point us to the God in the world all around us. He constantly talks of a kingdom that is right here, right now, within us.
Not somewhere else, sometime else.
Jesus talks of the kingdom as something so amazing that it’s almost elusive, so precious it’s worth selling everything to own.
Above all, He talks about it as something that is already within us. Something that is inside of us, that is to be shared and brought to the whole world.
Wherever you are reading this, God is there, even if you are or have been unaware of it. He’s there.
He’s at work inside you now, even though you might be unaware of it.
Now. At this moment.
This is God’s world. We may have totally screwed it up with our sin and selfishness, our rejection of Him, but it’s still His world and He’s not abandoned us – He’s right here, in the midst of it. Through Jesus He fully engages with and participates in the suffering of the world, He takes it all on Himself, and sets us free.
It’s no coincidence that when Jesus died the curtain on the temple was torn. Before then God was only meant to reside in the temple – but when Jesus died the temple was torn, God was no longer only to be found in the temple, but wherever we have our eyes open to see Him – including in our own lives and hearts.
God is waiting for us to wake up, to allow Him to open our eyes to see who we really are, and that He is already here, wherever we are. He is waiting to deal with the things about ourselves we either ignore or are simply blind to.
He wants us to have our eyes open to see Him all over His creation, and to accept His invitation to make His kingdom a reality here and now, in this place, and open others eyes to see the God who is already here.
Even if previously we have been unaware of it.
Time for you to join the discussion!
Are you asleep or awake to the God who is present right here, right now?
Do you think God ‘shows up’ or that He’s already here and we simply become more aware of it?
Do you live like God is somewhere else, or do you have your eyes open to see Him all throughout His creation? Is God here or there?