A Christmas piece from the 1996 Parish Notes in "The Pilot" today from Martin Inman. His "wild and lively and romping God" surely reminds of Aslan, the Lion, in the Narnia stories. "He's not a tame Lion". Yet so much religion is about taming God, whether it ritual or regulation, so that even the open feast of the Lord's Supper is restricted by each particular group to those acceptable to them; not in all churches, thankfully, as some heed the call for an invitation to be made to all, and no one to be excluded.
As Jurgen Moltmann put it:
"Where does Jesus' feast belong? On the streets of the poor who follow Jesus, or in the church of the baptized, the confirmed and established? I decided for the feast that is open to all, and to which the weary and heavy-laden are invited... That certainly contradicts the practice of our mainline churches, but it is in conformity with Jesus according to the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus' Supper is not a church meal for people who belong to one's own denomination. It is the feast of the crucified Christ, whose hands are stretched out to everyone. "
From Martin Inman, Hospital Chaplain
For the vast majority of us much of life, perhaps most of it, consists of routine. This, I suppose, is why we so look forward to the high spots of the year: holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries and, at this time of the year. Christmas. Such times as these lend an excitement and vividness to life which may not be there for the rest of the time. They provide a kind of liberation from the ordinary and the routine. We may well perceive them as being necessary to prevent us stagnating into boredom.
The poet W H Auden put the matter rather well when, in his "Christmas Oratorio," he wrote of the Yuletide Season, "Music and sudden light have interrupted our routine - and swept the filth of habit from our hearts."
The trouble is that if Christmas is viewed in a purely secular light "the filth of habit" does not stay swept from our hearts for very long -just a few clays at the very most. We are soon back to the old routine and the condition known by some of us as "Post-Christmas Blues" sets in.
How different it is, or should be, for those who perceive the real meaning of Christmas: God becoming one of us and so telling us that he is "Emmanuel," God with us, God marching with us along the road of life.
And what a God! As one of the teachers at my old college put it, he is "the wild and lively God, creator of a wild and lively universe, with you and me and all the others in it." This, in the words of the little-known modern poet Chad Walsh, is "the romping God who through impossibility has delivered us into the madness and gladness of sure knowledge and salvation."
But where to find him? Where to find this wild and lively romping God who wants to enrich the routine of our daily lives with his vivacity? Remember that the message of Christmas is that God has become one of us and that he is therefore intimately involved with our humanity, that he is closer to us than we are to ourselves. It follows that it is in the depths of our own souls that we are to look for and find the wild and lively romping God.
"Easier said than done!" I hear you say. There are many who see only darkness when they look inside themselves. One such was a certain Italian noblewoman in the sixteenth century. Despite her great wealth and position in society she was bored and dissatisfied with tier life. Her spiritual director, a poor monk, knew this and wrote these words to her on Christmas Eve 1513:
"The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see - and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look."
The joy, radiance and glory of the wild and lively romping God are accessible to us because he has become one of us. He can sweep the filth of habit from our hearts and make each day an adventure in his wild and lively world. To find him we must look for him with faith and prayer and keep on looking for him, for he is there to he found.
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