Did any of you plan to go out on Christmas Eve and shop? I do! It is more or less an annual event for me. Sometimes I am doing last minute shopping and sometimes I am scouting for a deal. Most years I just like to go out among the crowd, and soak it in. In less than a week it will all be over, won’t it? Sure, some of you will make it to a New Years Eve party, but most of the real celebrations come to an end pretty soon.
This is a season of over-indulgence, at least it is for me. I spend more money than any other time of the year; I eat more food, especially the wrong kind of foods, than any other time of the year; and I am attending more special events, parties, and services than any other time of the year. Over indulgence!
Now before your close your eyes and brace yourself for yet another tirade on conspicuous consumption and our superficial excesses, relax. I am not going there in this article. In fact, I want us to linger just a little bit longer at this table of over-indulgence before the diets begin and the savings are recovered and the resolutions to do better are made.
Over-indulgence; you know it can be a very lovely word. Is that not the very nature of God as we remember Jesus, the very incarnation of God? This birth is a sacred marking of the over-indulgence of God. God has done and is doing something remarkably extravagant, lavishing Holy love upon all people. The messengers of God said it to the shepherds allowing us to overhear down through the generations, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…” (Luke 2.10)
The sober truth is many do miss out on this season of over-indulgence. Some never get an invitation to a party, not one. There are those that are not lavished with presents, or have enough food to spare let alone eat too much of. And yet the messenger of God said: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.” No one is left out of God’s choice to over-indulge.
Last year I was listening to a podcast interviewing my mentor and Old Testament professor Walter Brueggemann and he was asked what was his favorite Bible verse, or something to that effect. Brueggemann said he loved the verses that spoke of being the apple of God’s eye. “That’s a very strange phrase, but what that pictures is a God who’s a big eye that looks at you caringly and treasuring you.” He went on to illustrate, “So what I imagine from that, it’s like being a little kid that’s lost in a department store and you finally go around the corner and there’s your mother looking at you and you’re safe again. So I want to have God look at me that way.”
The over-indulgence of God. How can we not help but leave from Advent worship filled and over-flowing because of God’s abundant, radical, completely out of proportion love for humankind? How can we not help but be transformed deep within too? How can we not help but see our neighbors and treat strangers differently, better?
There will be time enough for diets; for withholding and saving; and today’s over-indulgences will give way to tomorrow’s frugality. This season, however, is a reminder that God’s extravagances have no limit. Indeed it leads us to generous worship and God’s provisions for all of life – this one and the one to come. Amen.