Approaching Christmas

Approaching Christmas

“And they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us’.

I confess to enjoying watching completely pointless and mindless television from time to time – not in large amounts but in sufficiently small quantities to keep what’s left of my sanity. You will know that while there are many good things on digital television – key programmes have a habit of being repeated in a cycle. You might have seen the real life documentary on Victoria and David Beckham on Channel 3: living their fabulous lives in luxury and unadulterated pleasure. They seem to spend most of their lives shopping or having their hair done. So much money and so little taste perhaps? I am conscious that envy is not an attractive feeling.

Seeing them reminded me of a few words I overheard a couple of years ago now when a small group of children were dressing up for a Nativity play.
“You can’t be an angel” said one to another
“Why not? came the indignant response.
“Because you’ve got David Beckham’s old hairstyle”.

Well, if you have to look like Posh of Beckham to be an angel then few of us have much chance !

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But happily outward appearance is not important: angels worship and adore, an in the Christmas story we are one with the angels if we sing God’s praise and listen again with wonder at God with us, the child in the manger, sheer innocence and love offered.

In the Burell collection in Glasgow is a beautiful wooden manger in the shape of a child’s crib, carved all over with exquisite images. One carving is surprising – almost, it would seem, out of place on the bed of a baby. It is a carving of the Crucifixion, there to remind us that the child whom we adore, sweet darling baby, is the one who grew up to die upon the Cross, mocked and rejected as a fool and a criminal.

The child and the man; the innocent and the one held guilty; the joy of new life, the agony of life’s pain and suffering; this disparate experiences meet in the one human person of Jesus. Life’s dark side and life’s bliss, Jesus embraces them both, and is there for us in both.

The coming days are undoubtedly a time of celebration, of pleasure, of laughter and love and the affirmation of life in the darkest days of the year. It is also, at the same time, an occasion of sadness and loneliness – a time when ill-health or financial difficulty seems all the worse, a time especially when a loss of a loved one seems all the harder to bear.

The child of Bethlehem, the man on the Cross, Jesus – he embraces the whole of our human experiences – God with us, not just for good times, but for all times. This is the message of the angels – God with us, in times of darkness and cold, sorrow and uncertainty; God with us in the sunshine of contentment and satisfaction. The good news is God is with us, God with us to strengthen, uphold, and renew.

From Three Poems of Incarnation – Kathleen Raine

Who stands at my door in the storm and rain
On the threshold of being?
One who waits till you call him in
From the empty night

Are you a stranger, out in the storm,
Or has my enemy found me out
On the edge of being?

I am no stranger who stands at the door
Nor enemy come in the secret night,
I am your child, in darkness and fear
On the verge of being.

Go back, my child, to the rain and storm,
For in this house there is sorrow and pain
In the lonely night.

I will not go back for sorrow or pain,
For my true love weeps within
And waits for my coming.

Go back, my babe, to the vacant night
For in this house dwell sin and hate
On the verge of being.

I will not go back for hate or sin,
I will not go back for sorrow or pain,
For my true love mourns within
On the threshold of night.

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