Much of human history can be summed up as the desire to know God, to serve God, to bring about the kingdom of God. Every idol carved out of a rock or tree-stump and every systematic theology shows our thoughts about God. And we've often found ourselves looking at projections of our own minds: many of the systematic theologians have built paper idols not so much better grounded than the idolaters of old. The net effect of the modern approach to idolatry has been to enthrone our ideas or ideologies in our religions, denominations, or sects.
How do we escape the trap of mistaking our thoughts about God for the realities of God? How do we come to a true knowledge of God? Where do we look to see God as he really is?
On this day, we proclaim that the answer is, "In a trough." Not any trough in general; a trough where one particular baby was sleeping for lack of a more comfortable or expected place.
I think, of all the modern religions, only Islam shows signs of really grasping what we are saying. "Do you mean to tell me that God, the mighty and merciful, is that baby? Are you saying that the eternal creator of heaven and earth is a day-old infant?" They can't quite figure whether we're lunatics or blasphemers; most have decided on blasphemers.
Unless God wants us to know him. Unless God loves his people more than our misguided ideas would have ever imagined. Unless God's splendor and majesty and sovereignty mean nothing to him, and he would gladly lay them aside to show himself to his people in a way we could understand. Unless God decided to live among us as one of us so that we could see his character as he really is. Unless God himself is humble. Unless he calls our ideas of greatness the real idols. Unless God wants to be with us. Unless God reveals himself not as God the Ideology, or even as God the Unknowable, but as God With Us.
"In him, all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form." (Col 2:9) This was written by a Jew in roughly the year 60 A.D., while the memory of Jesus' time with us was still very much alive in those who had known him in person.
So in a trough begins the story of how God is not found in the comfortable or expected place.