December 25, 2008

Our Mirror

He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being. - Hebrews 1:3

Mirrors are wonderful gifts: a simple piece of glass, with a silver backing, suitable for seeing a reflection. They reflect light from one place and shine it another. They allow you to see angles of perception otherwise unseen.

What an astonishing thing we Christians claim at Christmas: That the wailing, wrinkly, writhing baby in the well-attested manager ... the one sought by scruffy, smelly shepherds and mysterious sages from afar ... the one entrusted to an otherwise unknown little Palestinian family from across the tracks ... Our confession is that this one, in faith and in fact, is the “reflection of God’s glory.” We are bold to believe that he is our mirror.

So come to the manger; gather to the creche. Push your way to the front of the crowd, past herders and travelers, past angels and oxen, past father old and mother young. Push your way to the front and peer into the bed of straw. You’ll find there a living piece of glass, a little new life with a backing of silver.

And note the angles (not just the angels), because angles are everything with mirrors. His is 30, maybe 40 degrees, such that when you look down, expecting to see a burgeoning baby boy, you see instead the glory of the living God.
Your line of sight is miraculously redirected upward: from the lowliest of accommodations, to the splendorous wonder of God’s habitation; from a feeding trough turned crib to the exalted throne of God’s perfect judgement and more perfect mercy. You sight moves from a fledging baby, 20 minutes into the world, to the great eternal One, timeless and mighty--who was, who is, and is to come. I give to you Jesus of Nazerth -- God’s ironic and illuminating mirror for all to see.

You might ask, quite rightly: Have all these Christians who have come before us, who gave us Hebrews 1:3 and who have pointed to it ever since, do they mean to say that to see this baby is to see the real God, to see what one looks like in person is to how the other appears in eternity? Does the Divine skin favor the complexion of a 1st century Middle Eastern family?

No. God is Spirit, more real than even our fleshly reality. God is no more brown than God is white. If anything, all of our various skin tones are but mere shadows of God’s mysterious and illusive image.

Well then, do they mean to say that because we got a baby boy and not a baby girl, God is He as opposed to Thou?

Hardly. That God is “He” in our parlance is only a statement about our ridiculously limiting English pronouns. Gender is God’s gift to us, not our category forced upon God. Besides, that Jesus was a boy and not a girl is only proof that God is willing in God’s grace to condescend to the lower forms of creation in order to make known good news. “It’s a boy!” might just be another way of saying “God has to do what God has to do.”

No, look again into the mystery before us. Hear again the astonishing conviction of scripture.

Its not the skin or sex that is the mirror in the manger. It is the manner, the way, the words and deeds of deliverance of the one whose birth we remember this night that reflects back to us the real look of God. This curious little baby does his best reflecting in his living, in his dying, in his rising again.

Want to see what God looks like, what God is up to in the world, what is most true in God’s heart of hearts? Look over there, says the New Testament. Look at this long-promised messenger, look at his words and his ways: he gives eyes to the blind, legs to the lame, hearts to the heartless. Look and see the glory of God reflected among you.

Now look over there, on Friday. See the cross of Christ, as he hangs on your death nail and cries out your stricken grief. See God’s eternal word, dying before you, and see the glory of God reflecting among you. Now look again, one more time ... look to Sunday. See the empty tomb; see his astonishing new life. See the scars of your sins now no longer deathly. He is alive. Death and all its derivatives have not the final word. Look at his resurrected body, and see the glory of God reflected among us.

Teaching and healing; dying and rising. That’s what God looks like to the naked eye.

It is the mirrored mystery of our glad confession: that in Jesus of Nazareth -- particular, peculiar, perplexing Jesus of Nazareth, born this night -- that in his word and in his way we catch a living glimpse of God on the loose.

Your mirror is he.
Your angle on the mysteries of heaven.
Your silver-backed, light-reflcting, 30 degree up angle to God.

See him born this night.
See him for what he is.
See him, and believe.