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Joy; Advent 2 2019

Date: 8 December 2019

Joy!

Have you ever played 'peek a boo' with a baby?  It’s the simplest of games and it brings a joyful response.  But actually there are some really cool things going on when we play 'peek a boo'.  Mothers have instinctively played 'peek a boo' with babies since the beginning of time, and Mary would surely have played 'peek a boo' with Jesus.  Let me tell you why 'peek a boo' works.  It works because of object permanence, little babies only believe in what they can see.  So they see mummy, they are joy fulled!  But the hands go up and mummy is gone, ahh, hands God down, mummy Joy!  When a baby can’t see mummy – it doesn’t think about mummy rationally and decide mummy might not be there any more, - there is no upper brain process, it just knows that mummy is gone – baby makes no difference between a second, an hour a life time. 
So at first 'peek a boo' seems like a mean game, mummy’s there, mummy’s not; it is an anxiety causing game.  But actually it’s doing the exact opposite. When you play 'peek a boo' with a baby you can watch the joy growing.  What’s that about?  That is resilience growing in a baby, and resilience and joy go together.

How do we grow resilience, by being subjected to small amounts of emotional stress and then recovery. It's just like growing a muscle.  Small stress and then recovery. Baby Jesus would have grown resilience by watching Mary’s there, Mary’s there, Mary’s not there – ahh, Mary’s there.  Joy.  We can all tell that with time, the baby starts to know that mum is still there behind her hands, and the baby starts to know that Johnny will come back from school.  Stress relief, stress, relief, - resilience.

As in the natural, so in the spiritual.  God wants to grow our spiritual resilience.  The devil tempts us with the aim that we will fail, but God tests us with the goal that we will grow.

So life is like a long-game of 'peek a boo'.  And the joy of 'peek a boo' depends on the little bit of stress, where’s mummy.  Where’s God.  Ah there’s God!

At Christmas the birth of Jesus is God becoming with us, Immanuel 'peek a boo', I’m here, I’m real and I am loving.  During his life time, there would have been times that the disciples doubted Jesus, is he really from God, and then Peter sees the face of God, Jesus – you are the messiah, you are the great King.    Then Jesus went to trial, and his friends didn’t know where God had gone, Peter can’t see God, and then on the cross the hands of God are closed, the father turned his face away.  But three days later 'peek a boo', Jesus returns.  And he promises that though his face at times might be hidden he will never leave us. And the joy is exponential.  And even more than that, Jesus announces that where he has been we can follow, he died to rescue us.   The Father is teaching us that he will never leave us, although sometimes his face will be hidden.  Hidden, 'peek a boo', hidden, 'peek a boo'?  Why?  Because God wants to grow spiritual resilience in us, and that’s called faith.  And faith is more precious to God than gold, or frankincense or myrrh, it is the gift that God desires from us this Christmas.

Mary and Jesus, 'peek a boo'.  God and the church, 'peek a boo'.  And finally we and God 'peek a boo'.  We come to faith because God reveals himself to us.  We can’t come to faith, unless God first reveals himself to us.  We love because God first loved us.  But then God hides his face a little, so that we can learn to trust, we can grow. He’s there, he’s hidden, he comes back, we grow a little more – this is why new Christians often have extraordinary experiences, God is giving us a lot of face time; but his goal is to grow our faith – so the hands will hide his face for a moment.  Then 'peek a boo', then joy.  Christmas is the biggest 'peek a boo'.  God showing his face, with all his radiant beauty glowing in the face of Jesus, in the manger, Immanuel God with us.  And so every Christmas is a reminder of the greatest Joy, when God most excellently showed his face to us.  And it is a reminder that even when God’s face seems hidden, he will return. 'Peek a boo' with joy.

Arronic blessing. The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (Num. 6:23b–26). 

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