18 December 2020
Yuri Gagarin is famous for being the first human being to journey into outer space – in 1961, as a Russian cosmonaut. Some time later, the Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev declared at a conference: “Gagarin flew into space, but didn’t see any god there.” It’s doubtful that Gagarin himself said anything like that. But it does reflect what many people imagine: that we ought to be able to go somewhere to see or find God, and that if we can’t go there – or when we do, we don’t find him – he doesn’t exist.
CS Lewis points out the folly in such thinking when he says, “if God does exist, he is related to the universe more as an author is related to a play than as one object in the universe is related to another.” What this means, explains Tim Keller, is that “[God] would relate to us the way Shakespeare relates to Hamlet. Shakespeare is the creator of Hamlet’s world and of Hamlet himself. Hamlet can know about Shakespeare only if the author reveals information about himself in the play. So too the only way to know about God is if God has revealed himself.”
That is exactly what God has done, and what Christmas is all about. In fact, says Keller, “The claim of Christmas is infinitely more wonderful than that. God did not merely write us ‘information’ about himself; he wrote himself into the drama of history.”
The skeptic might challenge the Christian believer with the question, “Have you seen God?” As if, when the believer has to answer “No,” it’s the end of the argument since God clearly doesn’t exist, if he can’t be seen or found somewhere in the universe. But the believer can always reply, “No, I haven’t seen God, but I could have if I’d been on time. If I’d seen Jesus of Nazareth I would have seen God.”
At the start of his Gospel, John tells us plainly that, “No one has ever seen God.” We don’t need to pretend otherwise. “But,” he goes on – and it’s a very big ‘but’ – “the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
So, you can go up into space and yet fail to find God. And at the same time, you can remain with your feet firmly on earth and yet find – or be found by – God. How? By finding and meeting him in the person of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, as he walks off the pages of Scripture. That’s because God has “[written] himself into the drama of history.” And that’s because he wants us to find him. In fact, by writing himself into the drama, he was coming to find us.
Father, we’re not able to see you, but we can know you, because you’ve made yourself known to us in your Son. Thank you. Amen.