God Comes Down Like Rain
Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;Hosea 6:3 (New Revised Standard Version)
his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that water the earth.
It is a cool, gray day here in the hills of East Tennessee, a day heavy with the promise of rain, so today’s word is a timely one. Living in a region where the winter holiday season is more defined by rain than snow, I find rain to be quite an apt descriptor of the season of Advent. Apparently, I’m in good company because several authors of the Hebrew scriptures use rain showers as a metaphor to describe the coming of God.
Ah, a gentle cleansing rain shower …
Obviously, rain is water. Water is necessary for life; we can last for some time without food, but we can’t survive very long without water. We’ve heard a lot about water lately, more specifically the lack of clean drinking water in many places. Many parts of the world are experiencing drought conditions. People affected by these understand longing for relief all too well.
The prophet Malachi writes “But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2a) As rain waters the parched earth and allows the fields to produce, God’s arrival among us brings joy, healing, reconciliation, and life. Those same rains can really shake things up, as we who live in storm-prone parts of the US well know.
… or maybe not
The “spring rains” Hosea speaks of can be a harrowing experience; damaging spring storms can leave us feeling uprooted, displaced, and wondering what happened. In a similar way, God’s appearance is often disturbing, causing sudden, radical change. The uniting of heaven and earth in the Incarnation brings a major paradigm shift. God comes down off the mountain and lives among us; now no longer only a transcendent and distant figure, God is intimately present.
An encounter with God deeply changes us, whether it is like the gentle rains that water the earth and provide sustenance for us or like the mighty storms that uproot everything in our lives. Zechariah’s, Elizabeth’s, Mary’s, and Joseph’s lives were changed when God suddenly appeared in their lives. Many of those whom we call “saints” were likewise radically changed after an encounter with God. The early followers of Jesu were said to have turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). God’s entry into human existence changes everything!
Questions for Reflection
- What does the idea of rain mean to you in the context of Advent?
- How has an encounter with God changed you?
- Have you experienced the presence of God as a gentle, healing rain?
- Has an encounter with God felt like a storm that left you unsettled and feeling uprooted?