Dec 20 Advent Reflection: Signs [And Some Breaking News!]
December 20, 2015 at 6:22 am Categories: Digging Deeper
“‘And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Lk. 2:12-14).
Where do you go looking for God? Another way—a more honest way—of asking the question is Where do you go looking for hope? The shepherds were told to go to a manger…
Imagine how different the world must have been even 100 years ago. Imagine how much smaller it must have seemed without Google Maps and Google Earth, without Buzzfeeds and such a constant and immediate influx of newsfeeds. Imagine what it must have felt like to not feel like you are at the center of every event and every relationship on earth. Imagine a world without selfies. Imagine what it feels like to be as small as a human being.
As a thought experiment, go type “headlines” into your search engine of choice. Read the headlines. Then ask yourself the following question: “What can I do about this?” Here are a few from this morning taken at random (also, see below for some very important celebrity headlines).
I don’t know about you, but there are two things I see no evidence of here: (1) God, (2) anything I can do anything about.
Just because it’s a headline doesn’t mean that it’s important, that it rightly demands your attention, that it immediately affects your world, that it can add to or take away from your hope. The news media serves to do little more than to shape our attitudes, and to give us a constant buffet of rearranged words that we use to say the same thing–it’s like Mexican food. There is nothing new under the sun. We’re just moving around the beans and the rice.
Because the unquenchable fires of the nightly news feed only on the world of decay, a world that requires the new to ever become old, a world that skims atop the surface of time desperately groping at what men identify as meaningful today but what moth will identify as food tomorrow. But Christians have been given a cross staked into history’s yesterday and Life raised up into history’s Tomorrow. That news has pierced the soul of the world, and it is the one thing that remains new precisely because it is the only thing that never grows old. It is the news that the angel heralded over history as “the everlasting good news…to every tribe, tongue and nation” (Rev. 14:6).
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is bad to be concerned with and aware of the global scene, especially if you are in a position to do something about it–you are probably not–but I do think it is bad to be unconcerned with and oblivious to the local scene. I’m suspicious of a man who decries world hunger but has never offered to buy a local man’s lunch, who endorses love for the world but doesn’t sit down to eat dinner with his family, who rails against abortion but doesn’t teach his son how to respect a woman, his daughter how to respect herself. The fact is, you can’t make your world different until your world becomes close enough to touch, low enough to look in the eye. That is your world. Everything bigger is a mirage. Anything more important is unimportant. And strangely enough, it is in that little insignificant world of yours, with hardly more than an earshot radius, that you will find meaning, purpose and permanence, because it is in that world that you will find God.
Q: “When did we see you hungry and feed you and thirsty and give you drink?”
A: “When you didn’t see me on a screen and when you gave me more than your opinions.”
In fact, when God saved the world, the worldwide web didn’t even exist. News feeds were word of mouth, and the words were from mouths that were not miked. It was even more primitive than a landline phone call.
If you want to find God-sized meaning you’ll have to look in human-sized places. I know. I know. Pity the man whose significance is as small as a manger and only as wide as a wingspan. Pity even the prospect of such man. He was a pitiful Man, indeed: “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa. 53:3); unfit for either Hollywood or Washington; his pitiful platform as little as a lakeside church, a voice not big enough even to cast a Roman vote.
Bottom line: it’s easier to care about everything in the world than to care about one single human being. If you want to love a refugee, find one. If you can’t find one without a country, find one without home, or one without a father, or one with a father who may as well not be a father. They are everywhere, especially right next door.
Jaques Ellul’s axiom is instructive: “Think global but act local.” Do that and you can be guaranteed two things: first, you won’t get any public praise, because public opinion doesn’t care about small things, like persons; second, you’ll be a part of how God is actually preparing the world for global restoration: sending people across the street to bring “good tidings of great joy” in the way He himself did it that first Christmas Day, by making eye contact with a world of refugees.
And for one final word on the current political circus, click here.
More breaking news…