“The only things that you can see / Is all that you lack.”
// Tom Waits
“If only You would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at Your presence…
When You did awesome works that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains quaked at Your presence…
From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened, no eye has seen any God except You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him…
For You have hidden Your face from us and made us melt because of our iniquity. Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands.
// Isaiah 64:1, 3-4, 8
There is a common myth that during the holidays the suicide rate jumps way up. If you were to tell people this, they would almost always say something like, “I can see it.”
There is something about those “sleigh bells ring-a-ling, ding, ding-ding-a-ling” that chimes in a melancholic sadness. Charlie Brown’s woes become our own as we look at our limp tree and think
“That’s me. I’m a limp tree.”
The season becomes that we don’t have that love to drink hot chocolate with by the fire, or the car with the big red bow on top, or the family that won’t fight; the list goes on.
We want something that brings us the warmth of a godlike embrace but don’t really want the things attached to it.
We get the puppy, then send it to the pound. We get the lover, then fight because there is some part of us that won’t mesh. We get the car and hate that all features are pay-by-month add-ons.
In his book The Divine Magician, philosopher Peter Rollins puts it beautifully,
“[T]he very thing we think will make us whole exists only to the extent that we are held back from it.”
In this passage spoken by a man named Isaiah written in the Hebrew Scriptures, we find a people who longs for what once was. They are a people who will watch their homes go up in smoke, their wives sexually abused, and their entire identity shatter.
So, they cry out to the only one who was there for them in the past with the hope that He will listen; asking for something that may give us a shock.
They do not want the new thing. They do not want the story that was marketed to them, they had that and it wrecked them.
No, they want the old thing. They want what they had. The things that they wished for didn’t make them whole, it only exposed the lack.
For these people Isaiah is speaking to, they are having that moment when you leave your coat in the car because you think you don’t need it and then spend the entire time in the restaurant wishing you brought your coat because you are freezing to death.
These people are freezing to death spiritually and eventually they will experience the coldness of death in captivity by a foreign rule.
There are two phrases that I want to focus on.
“You, who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him”
“We all are the work of Your hands”
In this time of advent we, “let every heart prepare him room.” We look at our lack.
We look to our lack to point us not to what we need to get or want or beg Santa for.
We look to our lack to find that the coat we thought we left in the car, was brought in by our dinner host and was on the back of our chair the whole time.
The lack exposes what we thought we need while giving us what we really needed.
We speak, God comes down.
God is the gift.
So, here’s the thing. We might feel like our time is up. That the happiness tank is depleted with every shiny toy, happier looking family, pretty couple, or box taped over with slick decorative paper that we do not have.
But you do have something, it is right next to you on the back of your chair. It is the Divine coming down to dine with you. It is the world sitting still so that you can breathe deep and chat with the greatest artist of all time while he introduces you to a whole new world.
Which brings me to the second phrase.
“We all are the work of Your hands.”
I’m told the best gift you can give is something you made.
We are made.
hand-crafted as a gift
like toys in Santa’s workshop.
You are the gift.
So, God hears you and dines with you and as you eat the Christmas ham and drink the Christmas punch he turns to you and says, “have you met…”
And this is where the lack becomes “something more, something you can’t buy from a store.”
- Why do we feel like we need presents around Christmas time?
- How can you be a present to someone else?
- How do can we enjoy God as present in our lives?