Thursday, January 15, 2009

God is with us, next to us, all the time

We are currently moving through the period of the liturgical year known as epiphany. The word originally means “appearance”; in the Christian tradition this points to the mysterious revelation, appearance or presentation of God in unexpected places. During this time we very specifically recall and celebrate the amazing, almost breathtaking, testimony of the apostles, that God who had revealed himself in many ways during the past, presented himself to us in an extraordinary new way through the birth of Jesus, by coming to us as a man from Nazareth (Hebr. 1: 1-2).

He is the one, so we are told by the first witnesses, in whom we discover the visible likeness of the invisible God (Col 1:15), the key to recognising all the hidden treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3), the glory and light of God shining on us all, the brightness of his presence (Isaiah 60:1-2). Working with the image of Christians as pilgrims, in this time we are invited to interrupt our tiresome journey, to come to rest, to attend more closely to this Jew from Nazareth and to reflect on the meaning his life has for us.

In the gospel the meaning of Jesus’ life is depicted in many ways, but in essence it points to one constant truth - that the God of heaven and earth entered into our human condition, declaring unequivocally that he is on our side. This means that as humans we are never lost or alone. We are constantly being cared for, safeguarded and kept by God’s unfathomable love and faithfulness, especially in times of darkness when we feel fragile and fearful.

There is a story which illustrates this truth in a moving way: as part of an initiation ritual a young native American boy was blindfolded and left alone in the darkness of the forest for a night. Before that night the boy had never left the safety his home, so it was a frightening, disconcerting experience. Each faint crackle of a twig or falling leaf sounded like a wild animal approaching. When the sun eventually came up and his blindfold was removed he was surprised to find that his father had been there all night long, standing next to him with his bow and arrows, quietly guarding and protecting him from any possible danger.

Entering the new year with all its dark uncertainties, as believers we may also count on this - that the God of Christ is there for us. In our darkest night God will constantly hold guard over us, protecting us from evil and kindling in us that fire of love and faith that will never die…

Carel Anthonissen

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