Apparently, in medieval times people believed that Mary had a completely painless birth and that Joseph was able to sleep through the whole affair. We still tend to paint a rosy picture of what the incarnation was like. We (I…) want a “Merry Christmas”.
This desire is reflected in nativity scenes. On Sunday I went to a nativity festival in one of our local churches. Many different nativity sets were on display, from traditional sets made out of wood or ceramics to home-made sets knitted in wool, made out of brushes or paper mache. They came from different parts of the globe, but wherever and however the sets had been created, they had one thing in common: The scene they depicted was peaceful and serene; every figurine was smiling or quietly contemplating.
However, when I went to a Taizé service afterwards, I was reminded that there are many people for whom Christmas is not a season of glad tidings and joy at the moment.
The topic of the service was the plight of the Rohingya refugees. The service sheet showed a young woman with shorn hair. Her face and hands had burn marks. The expression in her eyes was empty and forlorn. Her three sons had just been killed, and she said that the soldiers had killed her future too. Later a newspaper article was read about a 20 year old woman who saw her only son thrown into the fire.
I was reminded of the story of Herold killing the baby boys and toddlers in Bethlehem in an attempt to exterminate Jesus. God came into the world, and it was (and is) not all sweetness and light and merry.
And yet: Because of Jesus, we can have hope. After all, Jesus did not stay a helpless babe in the cradle. He became a man who voluntarily went to the cross for us to deal with the past, present and future darkness in our world. He did not stay on the cross, but was resurrected, so what looked like the end, was only the beginning…
In Him was life [and the power to bestow life],
and the life was the Light of men.
The Light shines on in the darkness…
the true Light [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] … enlightens everyone.
(Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 4, 5 (extract), 9 in the Amplified Bible)
So whatever you are facing at this moment, I wish you a hope-filled Christmas.
About the author: Susanne Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity. The German translation Wie man einen Berg bezwingt: Was der Kilimanjaro uns gelehrt hat was published in June 2017.