Happy Christmas everyone!
Over the last couple of months I’ve been given to pondering the events that we have been celebrating through advent. To be honest Christmas is not something I always enjoy. The last few years I have been on a journey to understand what I dislike about it – other than tinsel, and why; what, in my heart of hearts, I wish it would be. This latest bout of pondering has been a continuation of that journey.
At work we have been watching the BBC production ‘The Nativity’, a beautiful, gritty portrayal of the journeys of both Mary and Joseph in the lead up to the birth of Mary’s first child. The turmoil that Joseph went through, believing his sweetheart had betrayed him, and the impact of his mistrust on Mary. Years as a Paediatrician, years mentoring young people and my own personal journey all tell me something of the impact of these dynamics on the home.
Mary was an outcast, separated from her family, homeless and at the mercy of strangers as she waited the birth of her first child. Joseph likewise, alone in the world caring for his wife and her illegitimate child – or so it looked to others. Then as with refugees the world over, leaving the country with a moment’s notice, travelling by night in fear for the life and safety of the child and mother. When, after the king had died, they came back to Israel returning home didn’t feel like a safe option so they went north to Galilee, isolated and familyless, they began the process of building a life together from nothing.
As if all that wasn’t bewildering enough there were the diplomats from the East, the often terrifying Archangel Gabriel and absolutely awesome army of angels in full military gear (singing mind you!). There was the old priest Simeon who praised God whilst in the same breath prophesying sorrow and pain; and the lovely widow Anna. How did all the pieces fit together? We are told that Mary stored all these things in her heart and pondered them.
Later on in his life Jesus would admonish the disciples and the crowds warning them that their religious and spiritual performance wouldn’t amount to much, but what he cared about was how well they knew him. As he shared his life and heart with us, it became clear he wanted us to know him so well that we would recognise his voice and many guises… “when you did so to the least of these you did it to me”… the stranger, the outcast, the hungry, the naked, the broken and homeless. For me the connection seems stronger this year than ever before, was Jesus remembering his own experience when he said those words?
Be that as it may, I am challenged to honour these requests that Jesus made; especially at Christmas when we remember the circumstances around his own birth and childhood. Who is the stranger, the outcast, the lonely? Who around me is broken, hungry or homeless? What can I do to honour them? I am not very good at this stuff. It even challenges my desire to have a ‘meaningful’ Christmas, because that would feel more ‘righteous’ than simply and humbly serving another. As I spend Christmas with my mum this year, what does it mean to serve her for her sake, helping her feel she belongs, giving her a cup of water … and so honouring my Saviour?
Oh and I almost forgot, why do I really dislike tinsel? I am not sure what the answer to that question is, but I know I don’t yet ‘get’ tinsel. You may say ‘why not tinsel’ I would say emphatically ‘why?’!!