Thursday, December 24, 2009

Waiting for a Miracle

Faith is hard, and I don’t think there is a way to make it easier. Truth be told, I’m not sure it is supposed to be easy; nothing worthwhile ever is. People who are in over their heads in debt, for instance, convince themselves that if there was just more money coming in, the financial problems would solve themselves, but we know this is not always true. It’s the same thing with school work and grades. A’s are nice to have, but getting an A without doing the work only dilutes the true value of the A. In either case, what is given (money or A’s) does not solve the real problem.

Everything we do and everything we endure is a journey, a means to an end. There are all kinds of means by which we accomplish certain incremental goals, but the end will not be until “The End”. So until that Day of the Lord comes, we have a journey to endure. And the journey is made more difficult and challenging for us not only because far too many choose to go it alone outside of the Body of Christ, apart from the Church, but also because we are primarily stimulated and guided by our physical senses. Faith issues can arise when we depend too heavily on these physical senses. Obviously we cannot ignore them; in fact, we’ve been given these senses to serve useful Kingdom purposes. But the journey itself often becomes more cumbersome to us when it seems apparent that all we can hear and see and feel is, quite literally, all there seems to be even as it seems equally clear that something much greater is missing.

We serve and worship a God whose ideals, whose principles, whose purposes, whose senses are much higher than our own. And these things of God cannot be attained or even accessed by physical means, which would help to explain why faith can sometimes seem so elusive, perhaps especially because we are so physically inclined.

The Church exists for this very thing, to serve as a sanctuary from the world, where the means of grace must be readily available and eagerly pursued for those who have faith issues as well as for those whose faith may need only a “topping off” after a long week so they can face the coming week. The high purpose of the Church is to “re-juice” those spiritual batteries so that when things get tough and our physical senses become overwhelmed to the point of overload, we have that enduring faith that will carry us long after we’ve reached the point of exhaustion.

That faith, however, that enduring faith, does not come easily, and I think it is because of a lack of higher expectation. And this is because church attendance itself has become more of an end itself rather than a means to an end, a much higher end. Too often folks go to church with little more than a mind toward what songs will be sung, what friends may be seen, and what the preacher may or may not say. These things require little or no spiritual preparation because these things will be primarily directed toward our physical senses.

We come with little, if any, anticipation because our “faith juice” has run dangerously low, but the internal spiritual gauge that warns us does not always work like it should. Maybe because faith is a divine gift, we simply expect it to come to us – on our own terms. We come into the sanctuary of the Lord, His House, but we don’t really expect to “see” Him, certainly not physically but, sadder still, not spiritually, either. We don’t prepare ourselves for worship because our expectations are so low. And our expectations are so low because faith is so lacking.

That very first Christmas so long ago had to have come at such a low point in the expectations of God’s people, in spite of the prophecies. They were overrun by Romans, and their religion was more often geared toward physical lawful obedience rather than spiritual fulfillment. And as it so often is expressed, the Messiah they likely expected was a physical warrior who would ultimately drive out the pagans and reestablish the Lord’s “physical” Kingdom. Everything they expected – actually, perhaps demanded – was geared toward their own immediate physical needs. So the answers to whatever problems they thought they had would have to be physical because that was the level of their expectations.

We gather for worship with every reason to expect a miracle, but do we really expect it? It’s easy to know of a physical healing or surviving a car crash or any number of physical examples and we would attribute such things to divine intervention, but do we really believe that? Or do we hope it to be so? Or do we cast it off as such because we are at a loss for any other rational, physical expectation? And if we do genuinely attribute it to divine intervention, do we evaluate that divine intervention to determine whether perhaps the Lord was speaking directly to us for something much greater than the moment?

We do truly desire an encounter with our Holy Father. We need to be assured not only that He is present but that everything is ok. We need to know that the Kingdom of Heaven is worth the trials and tribulations of this life, the hardships, the doubts, the tears, the sorrow, the pain. And I do truly believe that the people of that blessed day so long ago, epitomized in the Christmas Story by the shepherds, the lowest of the low in that society, got exactly what they needed and right when they needed it most, perhaps when they were near the end of their spiritual “rope”. Or maybe they were the ones most likely to not only see but also appreciate the glorious message announced by the Heavenly Hosts.

And that’s the thing about miracles and the high purposes they serve. But these miracles are not possible to us if we cannot, or will not believe not only in “a” god but THE Living God, the Loving God, OUR Holy Father, being confident in that abiding love by which we understand that He is not going to spoil us by giving us things we cannot possibly appreciate, things we don’t really need and cannot really use. But that which endures to the very end, that which humanity needed most of all then – and now - is that which we must come to expect whenever we enter into the sanctuary of the Lord. To come to worship expecting a miracle – because it is His very nature, the essence of who He is.

It is the very essence and spirit of Christmas.

No comments: