It felt like fall today. The chill reminded me of this musing I had some years ago:
A glorious day. The bright sun dispels the morning frost and hypnotically blue skies mute the chilly air. The last clinging leaves give way, defenseless against the brisk weather. They twist through the air and sprinkle the ground. I tread casually over gold.
In the evening I walk out of the grocery store and am greeted by a marvelous spectacle: low clouds gathered in the west catch and highlight the dying sun’s rays, interpreting the fading light as bold color. I turn my back on the display to walk to the car, but am compelled to turn and look again as they symphony of colors intensifies to dim dusk.
Is this to be permitted? Surely these sights are too grand for my eyes, and when the morning sun splits through the blinds, I should tug the blankets over my head, hide my face from the glory.
Gray, dark days should be my domain. Then, cautiously, I might creep out of bed and face life. The glory cloaked, I can function – though I must beware. There is always the danger of catching a glimpse of otherwordly glory in the swirling dark mass overhead or in a damp leaf pattern imprinted on the sidewalk. Hints of holiness whip through the winded trees; even on such gray days it seems I ought to hide. I must tread carefully here, lest I be overwhelmed.
There was a time when God allowed man to witness his glory without being wholly dismayed. Moses hid in a crack, trembling, as the holy God passed by. He only witnessed God’s back, but Moses’ face shone for days afterward – only a veil over his head could keep the people from being awestruck by the luminescence of God’s reflected glory.
Ordinary people generally didn’t meet with God so intimately. It used to be that only high priests entered God’s presence – and that but once a year. The priest’s undertaking was no light matter. Preparations, sacrifices and rituals all had to be done to God’s satisfaction. No man could stand unclean before God and live. Some say that even after all the required preparations, the priest would tie a cord to his ankle before drawing back the curtain. If, when he encountered the Most High in the Holy of Holies, he dropped dead from awe of God’s otherness, the priests on the other end of the cord could drag his body back from God’s glory without being struck down themselves by majesty. They were onto something back then.
For some reason, we decided to relax when God debased himself to a gut bag and the curtain guarding the Holy of Holies ripped. That curtain, thick as the breadth of a man’s hand, split from top to bottom. God quit his happy Holy of Holies, and there he was, with us.
Has it ever struck you? Immanuel. God here with us. Can we say maranatha? Do we know what we’re asking for when we plead, Jesus come quickly? We had trouble living well before – will we do better now that God is here to share i our lives, or will we collapse, overwhelmed by stage fright? How can it be that our King, our God, would come here, to this place?
Foolishly, we try to make it better. We attempt to clean our little huts to ready them for the presence of God. In sweeping our dirt floors, we only raise more dust, polluting the air. But God beams sunlight into our hovels, dirt floors and all, and tells us, “Peace, be still.”
So we sit, astonished, sun shining down. The floor’s still dirt, but it’s bright-lit now. Glory flames through every cobweb.
And do we – can we – accept this: the glory brought to us, here, now, where we’re at? We should rush to find veils for our heads and cords for our ankles. When the sun stabs through the clouds and its beams enlace the earth, when the dust dances in the light, when grace smacks us so hard that we begin to suspect its presence, we might be glory-stricken and die from wonder. But the curtain has ripped, the sun has come; we can’t possibly miss it.