It may seem strange to write in Advent about a song set during Lent and Easter! But this song is about incarnation – God with us. It is a song that challenges us to smash our own stained-glass images of the infant Jesus. The sanitized Christmas card nativity scenes and the niceties of Victorian Carols portraying a baby who doesn’t cry or a child who is never difficult!
In so many ways we have deradicalized the incarnation. We have lost the miraculous depth of truth within the statement that God is with us, rather emphasising God as the benevolent stranger who walks alongside us until our life gets too much and then, just before we fail, picks us up!
We have retreated behind our stained (or not-so-stained) glass church windows for a dose of ‘God with us’, enabling us to return to the world and ‘brave it out’ until our next church visit.
In both these scenarios we have lost the fundamental meaning of incarnation. God is not on the periphery of our world, appearing as and when we need God, but rather God participates constantly in earthly life. God is not the immutable figure in the background but an active participant in our human experience. As a result, God walks alongside us understanding exactly how we feel, not waiting to pick us up at the last moment but, suffering and rejoicing with us in all things.
God takes on the frustrations of life and relationships and knows just what it takes to deal with these vibrant emotions.
‘And then God rode through on sunshine and sat down ‘cos he was tired. He was tired.’
Incarnation is God in human form, not scratching the surface of living but One who is exhausted through the process of living.
This is the God who is born in the stable, forced to flee as a refugee and whose life ends in betrayal, arrest, torture, and crucifixion. ‘Stained Glass’ is a song that challenges us not to see the resurrection as the archetypal Hollywood happy ending but to understand it through incarnation and suffering.
One day all things will be made whole but until that day God, who is born in the shit of the stable, is with us – whatever life throws at us. The refugee Deity travels, the betrayed Almighty struggles, the arrested Creator is bound, with us. The beaten and tortured Life Force experiences our pain and as the Divine dies on the cross we know that whatever our experience – God is with us.
Understanding the incarnation in this way smashes our dualistic theology of good versus bad and light versus dark, as forcefully as ‘the Elm tree hit the church‘. The previous window had been ordered and ‘cast a godly light’, the new window is different…
‘It was covered in black velvet like a hood or like a veil
He pulled the sheet and there it hung apocryphal and frail‘
‘The chapel fell to silence, it was more than just surprise
As the monstrosity of color slid its tongue across their eyes
And they shivered from exposure like babies born again
Cause in every pane of glass was all the joy and pain of man’
God is not only found in our sacred or thin places, within the joys and highs of life. God is also found in, what we lazily term, the ‘dark’ places of life, ‘every fearful smile, every awkward friend, every lie that ever saved the truth from being shamed, every secret you could ever trust a friend to hide away, every shape inside your head you can’t carve with your hands…’
The term stained-glass has become synonymous with windows in church depicting the sacred and the saints – the perfect not ‘emblazoned imperfections in a perfect stream of light’!
In Danny Schmidt’s song, the new window is stained with all the shades and chaos of life. A vivid challenge to us to meet our incarnate God in the whole of life: ‘And there was bloodstains in the red and there were teardrops in the blue’. God comes to us not solely in our churches or other places we deem to be holy, but in the shades and chaos of our everyday life.
‘As the thunder and the hardwood settled back into its place
God removed his veil and there were scars across his face
And some folks prayed in reverence and some folks prayed in fear
As all the shades and chaos in the glass became a mirror’
Under the cover of the night the veil of God is removed in the birth of Christ.
In the darkness of the tomb divine scars are revealed.
As much as we veil the shady side of our life, we find God in those self-same shadows. When we mask in lies the scars, that shame and delight us, God is not fooled. Instead of judgement and rejection God simply reveals in a mirror the life of God lived in Jesus.
Visit http://www.dannyschmidt.com to find out more about Danny’s music.