Immersed in Christ: December 12, 2020
The Second Saturday of Advent
Praise God for Changing
“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
Blessed is he who shall have seen you
and who falls asleep in your friendship.
God doesn’t change. If we know what “infinite” means, we know that what God is, he always has been and always will be. And if we know what to look for, we can see that the “God of power and might” who revealed himself as Yahweh in the Jewish Scriptures has the same face as the loving Father Jesus described. But unless we know what to look for, we may not recognize this. God keeps correcting the inadequate images we have of him. We need to be aware of that. And we need to praise him for it. What we praise we will appreciate. Praise makes us aware.
John the Baptizer was the precursor—not just the herald, but a preview of the Messiah. His disciples did not recognize him as the second Elijah who was to precede the Messiah, because John was not like Elijah. Elijah was a man “like fire.” He was violent and destructive:
In his zeal… he shut up the heavens
and three times brought down fire.
Sirach exclaims, “How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours?”
But John the Baptizer’s glory was greater than Elijah’s. He worked no miracles, and when Herod arrested him, Jesus left him weak and alone in prison until he was beheaded. Then Jesus said of him: “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptizer.” And in John, “Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased” (Matthew 11:11; 17:12).
Then he said, “So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”
In Jesus, but beginning with John, God revealed his glory in a new way: Jesus,
though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave... And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6).
In Jesus, God showed his glory by embracing weakness and humility. He said, “Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). This was the Jesus about whom Isaiah wrote (53:2): “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity… he was despised, and we held him of no account.”
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.
The face of the “suffering Servant” was also the revelation of God’s glory. The face Isaiah describes is the same face that “shone like the sun” when Jesus was transfigured before his disciples (Matthew 17:2). The face of God rejected in Jesus is the same face God hid when Moses said, “Show me your glory…” Then God answered, “You cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” But at other times “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend...” (Exodus 33:11- 20).
We have to recognize God’s glory under whatever form God reveals it. And we need to praise him for his “changing face” that keeps us from restricting God’s image to any limited perception of him.
The same is true of the Church. Praise God for Jesus revealed in his beautiful and ugly body, in his sinful and sanctifying Church, in the choices of her saints and the challenge of her sinners. Praise God for Jesus in his Church teaching dogmas with fidelity and developing doctrines with freedom; preserving the past, adapting to the present, and feeling her way into the future. Praise God for showing us his face, “ever ancient, ever new,” the face of Jesus, always changing and yet “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Praise God for his predictability and unpredictability.
DAILY PRACTICE: Be aware. Keep praising and appreciating the changing face of God.
ADVENT PRAYER: “Lord, give us new life, and we will call upon your name.”