A Rustle in the Bush

24 12 2009

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of this before, but it came to me as I was sitting today, looking at our Christmas tree, and wondering how, exactly, we have gotten so far off track.  I know that by saying this, I run the risk of being labeled a pessimistic, heartless Scrooge, but I will take my chances.  I’m just feeling a bit nauseous from all the commercial Christmas hoopla this year, is all.  I decorated my cubicle at work with garland and lights – and don’t get me wrong, it looks beautiful – but I hardly sit and think of any significant symbolism in it all while I type away.  The sugar is good, but party plates piled high among the privileged stand in stark contrast to empty stomachs near and far.  Commercials and sale ads only anger me – we’ve turned the Christ-like concept of generosity into an annually scheduled allowance for more things we don’t need, and we spend more time to acquire these things than we do at any other time in the year, an act I gather Jesus might have something to say about.  And the “sounds of the season” have just about done me in: Barry Manilow’s version of “Jingle Bells” might have been free on my iTunes Holiday Sampler, but I will pay them to take it back.

What am I trying to say, besides “bah-humbug?”  Quite the opposite, really.  Just, very simply, that I dare you to reject the secular version of Christmas, with all its glitter, and instead cling with all you’ve got to the real reason for the holy-day, hiding in the outskirts of town among the animals in a manger.  I thought of it in a new way today, this meaning that we miss.  It’s true: it’s when God became human, and when he came to be with us.  But more than this, Christ’s birth was the moment that God provided.  In celebrating his birth we take time (we stop our rhythms) to remember when God put an end to dutiful sacrifice and provided the sacrifice for us – the sacrifice that makes us both with God and right with God.

So for some reason today, I was thinking of this moment, how God provided the sacrifice, and my mind went to Genesis 22 – the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac.  God asked Abraham to give up the very thing God had already given as a gift, what was for him his promise and restoration and joy.  And in the moment of obedience there was a rustle in the bush.  God provided another sacrifice.

This is Christmas – when we look back to the bush year after year and we remember the rustling.  We remember that our God is a God who has provided the sacrifice for us (let us not neglect the intimacy this affords) and keeps providing for us as we sacrifice.  Just lay it down and look to the bush.  Christ has come and he is enough.  He is abundance.

At Christmas we’re reminded that alas, there is another way.  Even when we must lay down all that is so dear to us (because we hear a voice from heaven or not), God provides what we’ll need in its place.  This is the God we celebrate and serve: the kind of God who puts a baby in a manger and a ram in a bush.

“Abraham named the place ‘The Lord will provide.  This name has now become a proverb: On the mountain [of sacrifice] of the Lord it will be provided.'” – Genesis 22:14. [italics mine].