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Grasshoppers?

In one of last year’s blogs, I mentioned that the first Advent I was in Norwich everywhere seemed to be playing ‘Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer’, and that I even began to wonder if God was trying to tell me something through that song. It does occur to me though that there is quite a lot you could learn from the story of Rudolf, who was laughed at and isolated simply because of his red nose; a shiny nose which proved the saving of Santa’s Christmas eve round, when fog threatened it. It was exactly the quality which the other reindeers laughed at which came to the fore when needed. Thankfully, the other reindeers saw this. But I wonder how often we do the same? Take a quality which irritates us, and isolate or obscure the person for it. Hopefully, we are all mature enough not to laugh and name-call people due to odd characteristics; but it is easy enough to isolate or shun them in ‘adult’ ways, possibly without us even knowing we’re doing it. A group can probably do this even more effectively, each person’s prejudice reinforcing others. We know we’re right, because others feel the same, and this is definitely YOUR problem, and until you change in accordance with our requirements, we’re not going to know you; and if you can’t? Fine, that’s your problem. I suspect few people would put it that baldly; but, basically, underneath all the ‘explanations’ that’s often what we mean. It doesn’t seem an appropriate way to treat someone who is beloved of God, however difficult they are or may be; especially (but not only) if the ‘difficulty’ lies in us, as it did for Rudolf’s fellow reindeers.


Then, last week, I was reading from Isaiah, where it talks of God reigning in the heavens, and all the people are like grasshoppers (see Isaiah 40:21-24) and I thought that this is rather a weird way to view a God, whom we believe loves us. Yes, I know it’s in the Old Testament, but even so… Then I pondered further. Actually, to see God as majestic, one who sits enthroned in heaven, and sees us as grasshoppers doesn’t take away from the glory of the God who loves us, but adds to it. This God sees even princes, and the rulers of the earth as …well … as no more or less than the rest of us. It reduces all our striving, all our attempts to win love, to belong, to be better than others, to exercise whatever power grabs us, however we do strive with others; it reduces us all to the same level. It creates us all at the same level. We have different responsibilities but we are all equal in God’s sight, simply because God is the majestic one, God is the Holy One. ‘To whom will you compare me’ asks God in the next verse of Isaiah. Who, indeed, is God’s equal? Maybe we should spend some time with this? Just in the sense of this amazing majesty of our God, who is enthroned above the earth, and whom we worship.


Then we remember that it is Advent; the season of waiting, the season when we prepare for God’s coming: both the final coming, and the celebration of the coming amongst us as a human being, like us; born, like us; living in a human family, and growing up, like us. We remember that the God who is our King, the God whom Isaiah says sees us as grasshoppers, came among as one of those grasshoppers; and we continue to read in Isaiah. We realise that chapter 40, the grasshopper passage, begins with the call ‘Comfort, comfort my people … speak tenderly to Jerusalem’ and ends with those who hope in the Lord being given strength. Read the whole chapter. This is not the picture of a God who doesn’t care, who is so far above the earth that what happens isn’t noticed. This is the picture of a God who is intimately involved with the chosen people; a picture of a God who will go on to become even more intimately involved in the incarnation, who will live on earth amongst us, who will teach, heal and care for those he meets; who will, in the end, give his life for us … but will go on, even beyond that, to rise again, to show us the way to new life; and then will send his Spirit upon us, the Spirit whose intimate involvement in our lives proclaims the fact that God loves us.


It is a case of both/and. The majestic God, who sees us all as grasshoppers, is also the intimate God who loves us. To see us all as grasshoppers in God’s sight can be a helpful exercise, if done in conjunction with the fact of God’s intimate love. I suspect that mostly we humans tend to emphasize one or the other. To glory in God’s majesty or to glory in God’s love; when we should glory in both. For it is this majestic God, who made the heavens and earth and all that therein is, that also loves us, me, you; and knows us intimately. It is both/and. The majesty of God reflects back to us the fact that the love of God is wider, broader than we can acknowledge and is aimed at everyone one of us individually: from the highest Bishop, to the lowliest church member … except, of course, that in God’s sight they are all equal, all equally loved, as are those who never darken the doors of a church; those whom the church has failed and hurt; those who struggle to live in today’s society; those whom we like and those whom we don’t. Which brings us back to Rudolf and his red nose: how many of those we meet do we treat like Rudolf? How many of those we meet treat us like Rudolf? How many do we ignore or revile due to what we see, or what we’ve heard? And how many of those people did God come in Jesus to meet, to heal and to save? In one of last year’s blogs, I mentioned that the first Advent I was in Norwich everywhere seemed to be playing ‘Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer’, and that I even began to wonder if God was trying to tell me something through that song. It does occur to me though that there is quite a lot you could learn from the story of Rudolf, who was laughed at and isolated simply because of his red nose; a shiny nose which proved the saving of Santa’s Christmas eve round, when fog threatened it. It was exactly the quality which the other reindeers laughed at which came to the fore when needed. Thankfully, the other reindeers saw this. But I wonder how often we do the same? Take a quality which irritates us, and isolate or obscure the person for it. Hopefully, we are all mature enough not to laugh and name-call people due to odd characteristics; but it is easy enough to isolate or shun them in ‘adult’ ways, possibly without us even knowing we’re doing it. A group can probably do this even more effectively, each person’s prejudice reinforcing others. We know we’re right, because others feel the same, and this is definitely YOUR problem, and until you change in accordance with our requirements, we’re not going to know you; and if you can’t? Fine, that’s your problem. I suspect few people would put it that baldly; but, basically, underneath all the ‘explanations’ that’s often what we mean. It doesn’t seem an appropriate way to treat someone who is beloved of God, however difficult they are or may be; especially (but not only) if the ‘difficulty’ lies in us, as it did for Rudolf’s fellow reindeers.


Then, last week, I was reading from Isaiah, where it talks of God reigning in the heavens, and all the people are like grasshoppers (see Isaiah 40:21-24) and I thought that this is rather a weird way to view a God, whom we believe loves us. Yes, I know it’s in the Old Testament, but even so… Then I pondered further. Actually, to see God as majestic, one who sits enthroned in heaven, and sees us as grasshoppers doesn’t take away from the glory of the God who loves us, but adds to it. This God sees even princes, and the rulers of the earth as …well … as no more or less than the rest of us. It reduces all our striving, all our attempts to win love, to belong, to be better than others, to exercise whatever power grabs us, however we do strive with others; it reduces us all to the same level. It creates us all at the same level. We have different responsibilities but we are all equal in God’s sight, simply because God is the majestic one, God is the Holy One. ‘To whom will you compare me’ asks God in the next verse of Isaiah. Who, indeed, is God’s equal? Maybe we should spend some time with this? Just in the sense of this amazing majesty of our God, who is enthroned above the earth, and whom we worship.


Then we remember that it is Advent; the season of waiting, the season when we prepare for God’s coming: both the final coming, and the celebration of the coming amongst us as a human being, like us; born, like us; living in a human family, and growing up, like us. We remember that the God who is our King, the God whom Isaiah says sees us as grasshoppers, came among as one of those grasshoppers; and we continue to read in Isaiah. We realise that chapter 40, the grasshopper passage, begins with the call ‘Comfort, comfort my people … speak tenderly to Jerusalem’ and ends with those who hope in the Lord being given strength. Read the whole chapter. This is not the picture of a God who doesn’t care, who is so far above the earth that what happens isn’t noticed. This is the picture of a God who is intimately involved with the chosen people; a picture of a God who will go on to become even more intimately involved in the incarnation, who will live on earth amongst us, who will teach, heal and care for those he meets; who will, in the end, give his life for us … but will go on, even beyond that, to rise again, to show us the way to new life; and then will send his Spirit upon us, the Spirit whose intimate involvement in our lives proclaims the fact that God loves us.


It is a case of both/and. The majestic God, who sees us all as grasshoppers, is also the intimate God who loves us. To see us all as grasshoppers in God’s sight can be a helpful exercise, if done in conjunction with the fact of God’s intimate love. I suspect that mostly we humans tend to emphasize one or the other. To glory in God’s majesty or to glory in God’s love; when we should glory in both. For it is this majestic God, who made the heavens and earth and all that therein is, that also loves us, me, you; and knows us intimately. It is both/and. The majesty of God reflects back to us the fact that the love of God is wider, broader than we can acknowledge and is aimed at everyone one of us individually: from the highest Bishop, to the lowliest church member … except, of course, that in God’s sight they are all equal, all equally loved, as are those who never darken the doors of a church; those whom the church has failed and hurt; those who struggle to live in today’s society; those whom we like and those whom we don’t. Which brings us back to Rudolf and his red nose: how many of those we meet do we treat like Rudolf? How many of those we meet treat us like Rudolf? How many do we ignore or revile due to what we see, or what we’ve heard? And how many of those people did God come in Jesus to meet, to heal and to save?



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