Minister’s Reflection – Dec. 19/19
Rev. Dave Crawford
“And a Little Child…”
– Isaiah 11:6
The Christmas season invites us all to become child-like again, although perhaps not “child-ish”, and there’s of course a difference. Remember Jesus’ words about entering the kingdom as a little child (Mark 10:15)? Yet in the midst of our revisiting, in some ways, a child-like Christmas, if indeed our childhood memories are actually good ones, do we risk overlooking the phenomenal claims made in Bethlehem’s stable? With six days left now before Christmas, what’s your sense of things in your own life? How are you doing? How are you journeying? Is it a mad dash to get done all the things you believe must get done, or you are finding ways to let go of some pressures and be in the moment, to contemplate the Christmas hope, to revisit a child-like trust in the Incarnation’s claims?
Traditions may help. We all have some. Memories from my childhood include my father’s annual family tradition of watching Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” on Christmas Day, whenever it happened to be on t.v. (recall that in the mid-70’s there was no streaming, no dvds, no videotapes, so we had to check the t.v. schedule and adjust our own schedules in order to to watch!). For my father only the 1951 British version with Alistair Sim as Scrooge would do!
Miho and I have adopted a different but similar sort of tradition in the past few years. Each December, about a week before Christmas, we put aside a couple of hours to watch one of our favourite movies – “Anna Karenina”, based on the classic novel by Leo Tolstoy.
While the story’s not really “Christmasy” it’s a well-done but underrated version of the story, which came out in 1996, with grand cinematography of Russian winter scenes, dramatic Russian background music, and some solid acting from Sophie Marceau, Sean Bean, and James Fox. It’s our Christmas movie, or one of! Somehow, with Tolstoy’s brilliant writing echoing through the passionate story, it feels like Christmas for us, it opens up our hearts a little to consider deeper things of life, of faith. It may be true to suggest that great literature elevates one’s spirit, if not also one’s mind, to consider higher, truer aspects of this life journey, and even the promise of belief, of child-like trust in God’s Love.
The apostle Paul, in a famous section of 1 Corinthians often recited at weddings (chapter 13), offered these words, “ When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” His words may be helpful, for as intimated at the start of this reflection, there is a profound difference between the idea of having a child-like outlook or attitude at Christmas, and a childish one. How do we avoid getting stuck in all the childish, secular, politically correct messaging sent in our direction outside the Church at Christmas, and stay connected to the core? I don’t wish to sound myself like old Scrooge, but I am wary of all attempts to water down the amazing claims of the Babe in Bethlehem, the child in the manger, the Saviour on a Cross.
The Christmas of Christian faith asserts something extraordinary as well as enduring – a declaration that none other than the Lord of the Dance Herself, the Universe’s Source, the Creator, has taken on human flesh that we might gain a greater understanding of how we, the human race, ought to live and dream and be. God embracing human vulnerability, in solidarity with this often lost, aimless human family, staking out His territory right in the heart of the human condition. What this kind of Christmas declares is that evil, darkness, and even death are not all-powerful in the realm of human affairs. Love will always have the last word. The God behind everything Good, who loves enough to be born into our state, and suffer and teach, and heal and die, and live again, this God will have the last word. “For unto us a child is born, and he is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9
In our recent “Exploration of Christianity” group at church we heard from Philip Yancey, who writes in his book The Jesus I Never Knew:
“Because of Jesus I must adjust my instinctive notions about God (perhaps that lay at the heart of his mission?). Jesus reveals a God who comes in search of us, a God who makes room for our freedom even when it costs the Son’s life, a God who is vulnerable. Above all, Jesus reveals a God who is love. …
“On our own, would any of us come up with the notion of a God who loves and yearns to be loved? Those raised in the Christian tradition may miss the shock of Jesus’ message, but in truth love has never been a normal way of describing what happens between human beings and their God. Not once does the Koran apply the word love to God. Aristotle stated bluntly, ‘It would be eccentric for anyone to claim that he loved Zeus”, or that Zeus loved a human being for that matter. In dazzling contrast, the Christian Bible affirms, ‘God is love, and cites love as the main reason Jesus came to earth: ‘This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.’
“As Soren Kierkegaard wrote, ‘The bird on the branch, the lily in the meadow, the stag in the forest, the fish in the sea, and countless joyful people sing: God is love! But under all these sopranos, as if it were a sustained bass part, sounds the de profundis of the sacrificed: God is love.’”
A child-like Christmas, or a childish one? A Child-focused, Christ-focused Christmas or Happy Holidays, whatever that means?
May you be blessed as you journey to the stable, as you consider what happened and happens there, may you be changed, if change is required, by the Grace and Peace and Invitation of the Messiah.
Merry Christmas Friends!