There’s a Japanese proverb that points to the mystery and wonder of Christmas. It’s just a proverb, mind you. But it says a lot about the unexpected miracle of Jesus’ birth.
Sawaranu kami ni tatari nashi. If you look it up in a Japanese-English dictionary, you will find it translated: “Let sleeping dogs lie.” It means what that English proverb means: Avoid interfering in something that is causing no problems…but MIGHT cause problems if you get involved. Don’t try to stop that feud. Leave it alone, or you’ll get burned. What I find interesting about the Japanese proverb, however, is that, translated literally, it says: “A god you can’t touch can’t hurt you.” That’s the common sense take on God. A God that is wholly “other” (holy where we are unholy, all-powerful where we are tragically weak) might be best left alone. Why mess with religion? Let sleeping dogs lie.
The birth of God in human flesh is the completely unexpected and unimaginable answer to a world accustomed to believing sawaranu kami ni tatari nashi. To a world that, out of fear, didn’t want to get too close to God, God came down. God became a baby. What could be more helpless than a tiny infant? A baby must depend on his parents for everything. However, the God of the universe revealed in the person of Jesus Christ became touchable, to dispense BLESSING! Yes, the divide between God and God’s creation is real. Yes, at times we feel God’s distance. At times we might even wonder if believing what seems unbelievable or trusting in what seems impossible to trust might bring more heartache than ease. Why not just let sleeping dogs lie? Why not preserve the status quo? Why not just embrace disappointment rather than let joy find us? Christmas is proof that God is never satisfied to leave humanity alone. God revealed in Jesus is God in-the-flesh. In being born as a tiny baby, Jesus sanctifies our humanity. The God of the cosmos has become touchable! And 2000 years later, God still uses what is touchable…the bread and cup of His Supper, the water of His font…to dispense blessing to all who find their eternal joy in Jesus.
This Sunday is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday of Advent joy. As the lights shine brighter and our songs more openly acknowledge the closeness of Jesus’ coming, let’s find all we need in the God who did not let sleeping dogs lie but entered our world for real. Finding our holiness in Him, we come to touch what should be untouchable. We find blessing.