A few minutes ago on urban wilderness I blogged a short overview of the Gospel According to Mark I'll use to open my adult SS class session tomorrow. Similar to many people today, back in those days of the Ancient Near East (love that ANE terminology!) people tended to think of God far away, unapproachable, distant, and uninvolved. Or if they believed God was a little closer, they imagined God contained and protected in a space or place like the Jerusalem temple they'd worked so hard to build. Particularly as we've studied a pericope or selection from one of the four gospels each week, we've been discovering and uncovering a God who's anything but distant and far away, anything but unapproachable and uninvolved in creation—and in our own sometimes difficult lives and pressing concerns, in our joys and everyday routines! Especially as God self-reveals in Jesus of Nazareth, God has drawn near to earth, to creation. So near that God has chosen to live as one of us, as a human, in a body formed from stuff of the earth. But paradoxically, God-with-us, close-to-us still is the God of the Hebrew scriptures who fills heaven and earth, who remains free, elusive, and can't remotely be contained in space or in time. But you already knew that!
Given that humans tend to be more mimetic than thoughtful, the temple concept partly imitated gods of other ANE religions that mostly were gods for a certain place. Not only Mark but all the gospels reveal God so near that in Jesus God becomes and lives as part of creation—yet we find actual "near" vocabulary more in the deutero-Pauline theology of Ephesians and Colossians than elsewhere in scripture. In any case, as another Advent dawns, literally breaks open this week, let's remember God's abiding passion for all of us. God incarnate as a baby in the Bethlehem manger. God embodied in each of us so we can live as God's presence very near to our neighbors, friends – and enemies.
disclaimer: I wrote this very quickly in a little less than five minutes, but unlike most weeks, I found too many discrepancies and discontinuities, and In the interest of overall coherence, I edited so it would make sense, so this represents closer to fifteen minutes than to five.