Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"God in a Box"

I've heard, and so have you, the warning against trying to put "God in a box". It's a fair enough warning, though used by many people to dispute someone else's conception of who God is, what he says and does and expects.

To be sure, we can't put God in a box. He is above and beyond us. And we do have a tendency to want to limit him. We think God thinks like we do, rather than acknowledging his ways are higher than ours, and his thoughts are greater than ours. If God isn't answering my prayer the way I want it, then God must be wrong, not me, we think. If there's suffering in the world, or more importanly, in MY world, then God must either not care or not know what to do. We shrink God down to be someone who should take orders from the likes of us. We make ourselves "bigger" than him. We "put God in a box".

But the great irony of God is that he, himself, puts limitations on himself. "God in a box" might make us think of the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. That physical "box" became the throne of God on Earth - the touchstone of Heaven. There God dwelled mercifully, he who fills all of creation, in a specific physical location, for his people.

Then God limited himself to that certain place called the Temple. There in the holy of holies, a cube-shaped room, the Ark and the glory of God resided. Limited to that place, yet there he was accesible to his people in his prescribed way.

But the ultimate "God in a box" is Christ's incarnation - what we celebrate at Christmas - quite literally the festival of "God in a box".

The Incarnation puts God the Son "in a box". It puts him in the box of human flesh. It puts him in the limited locale of the virgin's womb. And when he is born, he is placed in a manger - a cattle feeding box.

And there, located physically in a human body in a human town, in a very physical and real place in space and time, God who created all of this became present - in a special way - for us.

In thus limiting himself he becomes available to all.
"Don't put God in a box". But receive him as he has given himself to you - "in a box". In the flesh of Jesus Christ, born of Mary, laid in a manger, sacrificed on the cross.
And there was one "box" that couldn't hold God the Son. It was the container of death - the grave itself. He burst forth from that limitation on Easter morn, and so too will he call us from our graves.

"Just throw me in a pine box", some say about their funeral arrangements. For some, it's an expression of hopelessness, that death has won, that it's all over. But for others, it's a statement of faith that though the body dies, the soul lives on with the Lord. Yet the final hope is that when Christ comes again, our graves will be opened, the Earth will give forth its dead, and we will live victorious with Christ forever.
Yes, death, the final box, the final limitation, loses its power for us who trust in the "God in a box".


Scott said...

Thanks Rev. Chryst for this fresh look at God.

Turning It Over

Lynn of St. John's said...

Great topic Pastor ! We've been wrapping gift boxes of junk all day for Christmas. We being evil, who know how to give good gifts to our children can surely be at peace knowing that our Father in Heaven has been most generous with blessing us with His Holy Spirit. CPH has a song for little children called " Love In A Box " Maybe your own children have sung it for you. It's really simple, " Oh You can't keep Jesus' love in a box, love in a box, love in a box. No you can't keep Jesus' love in a box, cause His love'll come tumbl'en through " or something like that. Anyway , I appreciate this message you've posted and put a link to it a Windows Ministry. for our families with little children & babies. Sometimes Jesus comes for a Grandma, a Grandpa, a neighbor, or teacher and folks need to be comforted by the Word of God in the manner in which you've been lead to do here. Thank You ! Merry Christmas !