I wish that I understood the phenomenon to some small extent, but I am at least coming to expect it.
At these times of year, these times of anticipation and excitement, God recedes further, and further, and further into the distance.
I don't know why that should be. People speak so frequently, and so eloquently, of the comfort provided by the presence of God. I wonder what they know that I don't.
Have you ever looked backward through a telescope? The image is so small ~ a miniature of itself.
We went to what used to be my home church for the midnight service on Christmas Eve ~ my own responsibilities in my own church completed a few hours earlier, I was officially on vacation. We were last at our "old" church in 2007.
In 2007, I was still an active elder, and a first-year seminary student who hadn't quite grasped that it would not be my home church for much longer. And I had, of course, no idea that in 2008 we would want to erase the holiday season in its entirety from the calendar.
This year, the service was again elegant, the music spectacular, and the milk-and-cookies afterward a wonderful time of seeing old friends. Much laughter, and a blend of serious conversation as well, as some of the same people who had been at the outdoor memorial service a few nights previous for the young woman who had just died were there also.
It's good to be with people who don't mind that you simply skipped the last five years.
But as worship began, as the choir sang so beautifully and the pastors spoke with such passion and joy, that was the image that came to mind: that I was looking backward through a telescope at a life that used to be mine. They all seemed to belong to another universe entirely. This one is so very much changed.