When God Came Near

By: Dr. Karen S. Dorris

“Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith.” Romans 13:11 CEB

The boxes of Christmas decorations came down from the attic about a week ago and I have enjoyed getting my house ready for the season. It always takes me a week because my decorations are full of memories. I can’t place any of them without remembering the joys of seasons past. Many of the ornaments on the Christmas tree were gifts, as were many of the Nativities I love to place all over the house. The hanging and the placing remind me of those relationships. Several of the Nativities are breakable and, as happened when my own children were young, they have been placed up high. It’s easier to do that than to constantly tell our grandchildren not to touch.

The first Nativity I ever received is made of carved wooden characters. It is the one I place down low so little hands can play with the figures. As I set this Nativity out the other day, I remembered the year our son Matthew was quite young and somehow lost baby Jesus. When I put the Nativity away that year, I pondered what I might use as baby Jesus the next year when it was time to decorate again. As luck would have it, we discovered the baby in the middle of March lying in a dusty window sill in the back bedroom. It was a stark reminder that while pieces of a Nativity set can be misplaced, God can never be lost. In coming to us in Jesus the Christ, God made all of life holy and transformed time forevermore. No matter how bereft we might feel, no matter what dirty, dingy corner might be our home, Christ will be there with us. We do not have to “find” God. We do not have to create a substitute for God. God’s love for each of us is so profound God always reaches out to find us.

Romans 13: 8-14 is a text often read the first Sunday in Advent and verse 11 has always been one of my favorites: “Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith.” It is the assurance that all of life and all of time are filled with the holiness of God because God chose to come to us in Jesus the Christ and, as Paul reminds us in this text from Romans, all God asks is that we love one another with the same fierce love we have been shown.

At supper the other night, my grandson Clayton had a camel from the Nativity set in one hand and a green bean in the other. You need to know he loves green beans with a fierce love. He loves being able to arrange the Nativity with the same fierce love. It was a picture of holiness.

Love God and every person you meet with the fierceness with which you hold what is dearest to you. Then and only then will you have some inkling of what God was about in coming to us in Christ. Then and only then will you have the sense that salvation is so near at hand we can reach right out and touch it.

Dr. Karen S. Dorris