No Room For Them
It’s hard to decide about Christmas cards. They’ve begun to feel a bit old-fashioned in our electronic world; and there is a triteness about them sometimes. But the real problem is deciding who to send them to. You’d like to be sure of including those who are likely to send you a card, so the lines get blurred and the list expands. in the end, you can find yourself including everybody who might be suspected of sending you their seasonal greetings. The lists never match and there is a last minute rush to fill the gaps. But whatever the defects of the cards, the thought behind it is undeniably good.
It is a pity that Christmas cards so rarely reflect an authentic message about what the birth of Christ means. What about a simple black and white line drawing of a street with a row of houses, with a few touches – a milk bottle outside the door, an open window with a fluttering curtain – indicating that the houses are lived in. In the centre would be a man knocking at a door. His head is turned towards the street, where a woman stands waiting. The street depicted should be recognisable to each recipient, as the very street where we live. The stranger is knocking at the door of your home. To find the caption, you must look deeply into your own heart. There, unless you are quite exceptional, you will find in bold capitals: NO ROOM.
The litmus-test for Christmas is easy and foolproof. When last did I/you last stretch out a helping hand to someone in need? Or open heart and home to somebody in want? Every knock on my door left unanswered is an ignoring of Christ. If HE is not born in my heart and in my home this Christmas, what happened in Bethlehem long ago is not really cause for celebration.
Grafted to the Tree of Life
Words are often the weakest method of communication. However, we have to use words, and today’s gospel is an attempt, in simple language, to describe what happened on that extraordinary day, so long ago. It speaks of Jesus being born, and of the second meeting of heaven and earth, on that same night, when the angels appeared to the shepherds. This was the beginning of a process that is still on-going, as I speak. It is an old story that is ever new.
“Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and always.” With God there is no such thing as time. All of time is totally present to him right now. God’s work among us is always in process, it never comes to an end. In God’s eyes, Christmas is an everyday event, that involves Jesus knocking on the door of my heart, seeking admission. The God-dimension never changes, the offer is always there, the good news is delivered with greater consistency than the morning newspaper. What happens after that is totally dependent on whether I accept the offer, open the door, and make my heart available as a manger.
One important point: The shepherds were given the message by angels, which is fairly good authority, and yet they said, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see it for ourselves.” The life of the Christian is a journey from revelation to faith. It involves coming to find out for myself the truth and the reality of what I had been told by my parents, teachers, or preachers in church. I have to cross that bridge. The gospel is in between two phrases. At the beginning, we are invited to “Come and see,” and, at the end, we are instructed to “Go and tell.”