Sometimes I prefer a Tamer God…

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Illustration by Br. Martin Erspamer, OSB, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, Indiana. Used with permission.  

Sometimes I Prefer a Tamer God . . . . . . a God I can understand better. One who’s more predictable and reasonable. And, if I’m really honest, I sometimes want a God who can be coaxed into doing what I perceive is right, good, and just.  

But that’s not the God we meet in today’s readings. Malachi says the God who is coming will be like “the refiner’s fire” or the “fuller’s lye” (ouch!). And if that’s not bad enough, Malachi describes God’s coming as “the great and terrible day”—“great” I can deal with; “terrible” makes me uneasy. The responsorial psalm reiterates God’s “beyondness,” God’s unlikeness to me, to us. We pray, “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me.” Why do we pray this? Precisely because God’s ways are not always our ways. And in the Gospel, we meet a God-fearing couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who have already encountered this unpredictable God. For decades they begged God for a child. Nothing. And then, in their old age, God promises them a son. But this joy-filled promise strikes Zechariah mute until the day he scrawls that sentence, “John is his name.” Immediately he regains his voice and begins praising this God who is so far beyond his understanding 

On this eve of Christmas Eve, let us remember whom we are inviting into our lives. Not merely a little baby we can hold and cuddle. But the full-grown Jesus Christ whose life and teachings are still turning the world upside down. Yes, this Jesus can come to us in the sweet strains of a cherished Christmas carol. But he also comes to us in the persistent call to ever-expanding love, to humble and joyful service, and to ever deepening trust in the real God—whose power, goodness, and love are far beyond anything we can imagine . . . or tame.  

© Liturgical Press.

Sr. Melannie Svoboda

Melannie Svoboda, a Sister of Notre Dame from Chardon, Ohio, writes and leads retreats nationally. Her latest book is The Grace of Beauty: Its Mystery, Power, and Delight in Daily Life. Visit her blog “Sunflower Seeds” at

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