5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
(Romans 10:5-9, ESV)
These verses don’t make sense, do they? Not on the first read, or if you’re me, the second, third, and fourth. But Paul wrote this letter to Christians in Rome, many of whom were Gentiles–former pagans, not Jews. These folks grew up believing in Roman gods who could live high above the clouds or deep below the ground (the underworld) and hearing about the likes of Hercules, whose many daring feats brought him face-to-face with the “gods” both in the underworld and up in the heavens. Today we know these were just myths, but to the Christians in Rome, this was what they grew up believing was the real deal. That is, before the Gospel turned their lives inside out!
How strange it must have been, then, for these Christians to hear that the very word and power of God, the Spirit of the risen Christ, could be near them…and not just near, but IN them! They didn’t have to be a strong hero or a priest in a temple to reach the divine. They didn’t have to climb up from earth to the heavens or journey into the darkness of the underworld to fetch Christ their Savior. Instead, Christ came to earth to be with us humans, and it was because He came and died and rose again that they (and we!) could be transformed and empowered to proclaim the Good News.
So when you think of God, where is he? Do you think like the Romans did, believing he is far away? Is he someplace where you need to strive and struggle to fetch him, if you can get him at all? Or is he in your mouth and heart, walking with you and working through you to redeem a hurting and broken world? Ask the Father for the Holy Spirit of Christ today, and you will find the core message of advent is true: God is closer than you can imagine.