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Earth Shot Through with Heaven

December 20, 2011

I recently stumbled across “Heaven and Earth” by Heather King, an essay originally published in The Sun.  She writes of coming to faith as a Roman Catholic in her adopted city of Los Angeles.  It’s a strikingly beautiful piece of writing.  In these chaotic last days before Christmas – as Congress debates extending payroll tax cuts, our last soldiers come home from Iraq, and succession begins in North Korea – I find myself taken by her reasons for attending worship:

“Going to Mass did not make me “better”: my first thought, still, was usually the fearful one, the cynical one, the critical one.  But I went anyway.  I went because in the dimmest reaches of my confused, angst-ridden mind there was still something in me that wanted to get down on my knees and, in spite of my own shortcomings and the shortcomings of everyone around me, give thanks.  I went because I was beginning to understand the parable of the yeast – that the reign of God is like the yeast which a woman kneaded into three measures of flour, and eventually the whole mass of dough began to rise.  I went because I was beginning to believe that heaven is not some other world, but shot all through the broken world where we already live.”

As we gather in a few days to hear again the Christmas Gospel, our own messy lives merge with those God came to that holy night.  We hear of Mary and Joseph, whose worlds were turned upside and whose lives were forever redirected with a baby for which they had not planned.  We hear of shepherds, lowly folks who were minding their own business when the heavenly host burst in.  We hear of an emperor trying to impose his order upon the world while God sneaks in the back door, taking on our flesh and dwelling with us.

In the coming of the Christ we hear not a call to move from this world to the next, from this earth to heaven.  Rather, we see heaven come down to earth.  We hear the angels singing from the heights disclosing God’s good news to shepherds near the bottom rung of society.  We see God become one of us, for our sake, that we might know peace and share goodwill with all.  We see this broken and messy world, our own chaotic and disordered lives, shot through now with Jesus, the heaven-born Prince of Peace.

This Christmas, we hear not a call to move beyond this world.  Instead, we see in our midst the God of heaven who has moved in with us.  May we – in spite of all shortcomings – fall down in worship of the One who comes down to us and brings heaven to earth.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

From → Advent/Christmas

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