Do you remember the days when meeting someone the conversation would often begin with a discussion about the weather; today, it seems to be about jabs and boosters! Or when a tablet was something you took for a headache; zoom was a noise a child made when playing with a toy rocket, or wicked and sick referred to something horrible and unpleasant where now they speak of something wonderful and marvellous? How about ‘cloud;’ I always understood clouds were the white fluffy things drifting in the sky but now, apparently, that’s where all my photographs and documents are stored! There are many more; footprint, handle, swipe, troll and Donald Trump’s favourite ‘tweet.’
During a break in the lockdown, I was at an event with my son and his friends when a member of staff came in to move some tables; from their clothing and appearance, it was difficult to see if it was a man or a woman. I asked my son who the person was, assuming a name would answer the query. His response was “They are xxxx.” The name was ambiguous, but what confused me was the reference to ‘they’ for an individual. After some discussion, the conversation ended as they usually do, with him thinking I’m a dinosaur and me thinking he and ‘they’ are confused.
Over the years I have met several people, men and women, who as children were abused by a male parent; some were abused by their mother. Some, not all, had difficulty addressing God as Father because of the memories associated with the relationship. When Jesus answered the disciples request: “Lord teach us to pray” they would have been astonished, possibly shocked, when he said when you pray say: “Father, hallowed be your name.” Luke 11;1-2
To call God Father is to claim a relationship, which in the Jewish household of the day was perhaps the most intimate and significant a child could have. Intimate, loving, protective, a means of identifying who the child was and their place in the community. Read John 17 to unpack more of this awesome relationship.
But, calling God ‘Father’ does not mean God is a man. Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man that he should lie…..” Jesus is a man: even now in heaven. 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
When approaching God, it is easy to fall into the trap of using words and phrases which lead us into thinking of him in human terms. Doing this may result in a God who is too small, when big problems occur in life we may doubt Him.
Reading the bible, we encounter a mighty, awesome, fearsome, loving God. A God who reaches out to a sinful, disobedient people. Patiently, sometimes gently, sometimes frighteningly but always with the same purpose; to draw them back to him. He wants a relationship with us. He has done everything possible to make the way open for everyone to come to him. Christmas is remembering God fulfilling his promise of Genesis 3 and preparing for the new creation beginning on the day of the resurrection.
He hasn’t changed. Everything around us may change, He doesn’t. Some of the people I referred to earlier, struggling with God as Father, discovered something happening when they started to pray to ‘Almighty God’ and didn’t use the word Father. Their testimony, not mine, was: as they prayed to ‘God Almighty’ or ‘Living God’ over time; sometimes years, they naturally slipped into calling him ‘Heavenly Father.’ Intimacy with God brought healing.
Modern life is confusing, language changes faster than some of us can keep up with. Always remember; however fast things change they never outpace God. And whatever is happening: Psalm 119:90
Forever, O Lord, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.
Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
Kathryn joins me in wishing everyone a peaceful and happy Christmas and, God willing, a wonderful New Year.