When George and Ira Gershwin wrote the the song “Embraceable You” in 1928, they probably had no idea they were touching on a deep theological truth. “Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you…” Stay with me here; this is going somewhere.
PB preached the first sermon of 2012 last Sunday and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. (That’s the sign of a good sermon, you know: parishioners, or at least the pastor’s wife, wanting to discuss Sunday’s sermon on the following Wednesday.) The message “To Hug and To Hold” was about Mary and Joseph bringing their 8-day-old son to the temple for dedication. They were met by an old man named Simeon, probably the priest who was going to bless the child. But Simeon didn’t just place his hand on the baby’s head and pronounce the usual blessing. Not this time. The wrinkled hands reached out and Simeon took the babe in his feeble arms. The old priest knew this was what he had been waiting for his whole life. He embraced the Son of God.
Imagine. Hugging. God.
I’m not opposed to hugging, although I know some people are uncomfortable with it. There are some huggers who go for the side-by-side-pat-each-other-on-the-back method. It’s kind of a half-hug. There are the A-frame huggers, who don’t mind a quick cheek-to-cheek clasp, so long as the rest of the body stays a good distance away. Then there are the Aunt Irene hugs. When I met PB’s Aunt Irene, I was warned about her death-defying squeezes. It was true: she had a vice grip that took the breath right out of me.
Until Jesus came, God just didn’t seem very huggable. There was a lot of thunder and fire and mystery associated with Jehovah. He might have been perceived as a little unapproachable. But Jesus came and changed all that. God became embraceable.
Thirty-three years later, He stretched out His arms wide and embraced us.
All the things I once thought were so important…. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. Philippians 3:7 The Message