What if God was one of us?
A reflection for the Feast of Candlemas
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?
You may know the song What if God was one of us by Joan Osborne, which was released in 1995. Last month, when we celebrated the Feast of Epiphany, this was one of the songs we used in our All Age service.
It’s an interesting question to ask ourselves, and maybe some of us do occasionally: What if God was one of us? And, as the song continues, ‘Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus?’ One can reflect philosophically on this question: is the idea of a God who is both transcendent and immanent logically coherent? But that’s not what I want to now, as it would require some more than a few hundred words.
However, I think I have seen something of what it might mean for God to be one of us over the last few days. A couple of days ago, on Friday, as I walked into Norwood Hall, Marlborough College’s refectory, I saw some pupils serving lunch. As many of the catering staff had not been able to make it in, some of them volunteered – or possibly were volunteered – to help. In either case, none of those who were helping seem to resent it, but rather enjoy it.
Not because of the work itself, I suspect, but because they were able to help, to do something together. The barrier between ‘us’ and ‘them’ that is inevitably created by any counter was for a moment no longer there. We were one of them, and they were one of us. And that is a really good feeling. And it think it is precisely those moments that we realise that doing things together makes our lives what they are. The relationships we are able to form give life its shape, its meaning, and its joy.
In Christian terms, one could say, that God is in those moments, in those relationships, and when we feel good about those, that is when we experience something of God’s presence: God with us. Many, of course, will not agree with this interpretation, but I hope at least that you share the experience, as I think life would be much emptier without those moments.
Just a little bit of theology to link these thoughts to today (or yesterday), when we celebrate the Feast of Candlemas: forty days after Christmas – yes it has been forty days! At Christmas, Christians celebrate the particular moment in which God really did become one of us, when he was born in human form, when the Word was made flesh. And the reason was that God wanted to live with us, like one of us.
Today, Candlemas, marks the end of the Christmas celebrations, and maybe that’s the reason why Waitrose has already started selling Easter eggs. Traditionally in the Church, it is also the time when the candles used for the coming year are blessed.
The image of a candle, I think brings it all together. Image for a moment that the snow would have caused a massive power cut, something not that unlikely I suspect. And imagine that the only light we have is one candle each. There are two options. The first is everyone keeping their candle to themselves. You can’t see much, and will fall over, particularly walking past Crosby and Lawrence.
The second option is to bring our candles together. It is no longer cold, no longer dark, but, all our candles together easily make for enough light to see. So our choice is not really a choice: we are better together, life is better together. Whether you believe God is one of us, or not; we do need each other, and that in itself is a great privilege and gift.