Truly you are a God who has been hiding himself.
The Lord is unseen. We see Advent candles and manger scenes, the decorations of those who worship him, but we don't see him. We know that God is working out the events of our life, but we don’t see him moving things around. We pray to God and we know that he hears and answers our prayers, but we don’t know what his voice sounds like. We believe that God changes our hearts and lives, but we don’t always feel changed. We cannot see him, hear him, feel him.
Meanwhile, what we do see and hear and feel is often troubling. We see ambulances and police tape and gas prices and the Dow Jones average. We hear news reports we’d rather not hear, both on TV and in our own life. At times we may feel lonely, or overwhelmed, or worried, or all of the above. Some of the trouble that comes our way comes through no fault of our own. That's bad enough. To make matters worse, many of our messes are messes of our own making. We’ve been acting like the sinners we are by nature. The Apostle Paul says, “Nothing good lives in me” (Ro 7:18).
Where is God in all this? Unseen, unheard, unfelt, perhaps, yes. But Isaiah the prophet has a better way to describe it. God hides himself. That's different. Unseen might mean God is far away. But if he's hidden, he's here. He is. "Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them," he says (Matthew 18:20).
What comfort! What relief! Even though you don't see him, the Lord is here with us who gather in his name. He is with us in his Word, in our Baptism, in his Supper! The One whom the Virgin Mary carried to term, who strolled across the surface of the sea, who raised the dead with a word, who rules a kingdom without borders, he is here, and no trouble you face is too big for him. The One who sweat drops of blood, who cried out under our punishment, who rolled the stone from his own sealed tomb, he is here, and no sin you carry is beyond his grace and forgiveness.
On the Last Day the dead will be raised and our Lord Jesus will come to us from the gates of heaven with all his glorious angels, no longer hidden, but gloriously visible. Then, too, we will say with joy beyond any we've ever known: “The Lord is here.”
But what about now? For now, God is hidden.
Enjoy whatever trappings of Christmas you want to enjoy, but don't look for God in them, and don't give into loneliness and despair if those trappings aren't there for you this year. You know where to find him. In his Word, in your Baptism, in your Supper, he comes to you. And when he comes, the One who has been hiding himself from your eyes hides himself in your heart, along with all the blessings for which your heart longs.
See all the upheaval and distress going on in our world, in your life? Tucked away, hidden, you have what the world can't see: forgiveness, peace, comfort, joy, strength, life, in Jesus your Savior.
Devotion by Pastor Jon Zabell
Copyright (c) 2022, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Green Bay, WI 54301
Bible text, NIV (c) Biblia, 2011