Wednesday, December 15, 2010

welcome, christmas?

in recent posts, i've reflected on songs, poetry, and film where i think the message of God comes through -- usually in images or parts of the narrative that reflect our need for him and the good news of his coming into creation to transform it and us. the good news is that the longing for something better -- a better world, better relationships, and even a better me -- is meant to be fulfilled. yes, that starts with a restored relationship with God, but it doesn't end until all of creation is transformed.

the message of last week's glee episode was the opposite. entitled "a very glee christmas," ian brennan wrote an entire story about christmas with seven christmas carols (it's a musical show, after all), none of which referenced anything about what christmas is really about! it's not that i expected a full-on telling of the christmas story with joseph, mary, and the baby Jesus (a la "a charlie brown christmas"), but i'll admit that it was jarring to me how they managed to talk about the "real meaning of christmas" (tm) without even getting close to what christmas really means!

the apex (or nadir) of the episode was the singing of a song entitled "welcome, christmas" (from "how the grinch stole christmas!"). it's a christmas carol that talks about cheer, grace, and togetherness rooted in nothing but ourselves. this actually comes through in the song lyrics, which must be intended to be reminiscent of someone singing in latin, but are really nonsense and have no meaning at all - to wit:
welcome, christmas! fah who rahmus!
welcome, christmas! dah who dahmus!
christmas day will always be!
just as long as we have we!

fah who foraze! dah who doraze!
welcome christmas! bring your cheer!
fah who foraze! dah who doraze!
welcome all who's far and near!
at the end of "a very glee christmas," they have the requisite christmas miracle, two of them actually. sue's miracle -- the miracle of a changed heart -- happens for no apparent reason. artie's miracle is credited to... santa. seriously. well, at least that's what the kids think. in the background, we see the adult figure of shannon beiste, the gold-hearted football coach who is apparently responsible.

so this is the enlightened celebration of christmas: a celebration of goodwill and togetherness that come from nowhere greater than ourselves and mean ultimately nothing. the longing for a better world remains, but as for hope, we're it. this is reason enough a holiday? thankfully, there is a better reason for the season.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

penetrating the veil

over the years, i've had the privilege of praying with some very gifted prayer ministers and intercessors -- the kind of folks who seem to hear the voice of God easily and even to see his face. i'm married to one of them, but there have been a number of others. these are the people tozer once described as prophets -- those who have "gazed with inward eye upon the Wonder that is God" and report what they have seen. in tozer's taxonomy, the foil to the prophet is the scribe, who can share only what he has read. he observed that his generation was overrun with orthodox scribes, but wondered aloud about what had become of the prophets.

for me personally, the comparison stings. i fear that, too often, mine is the voice of the well-studied scribe who knows chapter and verse but has not spent sufficient time in the presence of God. i realize that those are not meant to be mutually exclusive; one should have the latter without neglecting the former. but the question persists: does my soul long for God as the deer longs for the water brooks (psalm 42:1)? are my robes fragrant with the aroma of myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces (psalm 45:8)? am i abiding in Jesus, the life-giving vine (john 15:4)?

i take heart in the fact that my heart is still hungry for a deeper life with him -- that whatever my spiritual shortcomings, the flame of desire still burns. i'm also grateful that a life with him depends far more on what he has done and yet does than on me.

"o God, i have tasted thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. i am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. i am ashamed of my lack of desire. o God, the triune God, i want to want thee; i long to be filled with longing; i thirst to be made more thirsty still. show me thy glory, i pray thee, that so i may know thee indeed. begin in mercy a new work of love within me. say to my soul, 'rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.' then give me grace to rise and follow thee up from this misty lowland where i have wandered so long. in Jesus' name. amen." (from tozer's, the pursuit of God)