Earlier this week I was asked whether it was Advent yet and, in panic, I lurched towards my church calendar and was reminded that there was a month to go, including Remembrance Sunday, before the church could do its equivalent of stocking the shelves with mince pies. I type this just before heading round the M25 to catch up with my mum who has just had a hip ‘revision’. So I write with a mixture of thankfulness that she’s ok and worry that she’s going to continue to be ok.
Advent & Christmas are, if we’re not to be sold all the tinsel, a strange mixture of apprehension and gratitude. There’s a good piece towards the beginning of William Nicholson’s play, ‘Shadowlands’, as Joy Davidman is getting to know C.S.Lewis. It’s one of her earlier poems about the Spanish Civil War, and she recites it a little self-consciously:
Softly, so casual,
Lovely, so light, so light.
The cruel sky lets fall
Something one does not fight.
Men before perishing
See with unwounded eye
For once, a gentle thing
Fall from the sky.
This juxtaposition of the gentle with the cruel, the unwounded with the perishing, gets very close to the message of the baby in the manger, especially if we look at the wider picture of what was going on in the holy land at that time, and even to this day. Christ was born into struggle; Romans delegating power to dictators like Herod who ruled by the sword, with the locals just getting by.
We have had more than enough of Recession and just getting by; there have been struggles in Europe, and locally over housing, and vicious little wars rumble on in ill-reported parts of our world. We may have struggles too, with our own jobs, our relationships, our children as they grow up. So it is no small comfort that Jesus, this gentle thing, comes to us just in the midst of such turmoil, and amidst all our striving.
It is surely right to strive for the good things in life. However, in the end, the fight goes beyond material things to ‘powers and principalities in the heavenly realms’ which St.Paul speaks of. Such challenges become more manageable when we claim for ourselves, in our quieter moments, the gentler things like patience, kindness, faithfulness, and humility. They are, beneath the tinsel, distinctly human. And yet paradoxically, they seem to drop from above when we least expect it. They are certainly things, like the incarnation, one does not fight.
Happy Christmas; come and see us soon.
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