21st January 2015
I remember when I was in parish ministry someone saying to me, with a big sigh of relief, that Christmas was done and over and back in the attic! Of course I knew what they meant. Part of me felt the same way. All the festivities, planning and busyness had passed and we had all – somehow – survived! Christmas can be hard work and demanding, even painful for many. I know that from my days as a curate visiting parishioners. But back to this phrase “Christmas is in the Attic.” Another part of me wants to say “No it isn’t!” Why would I say that?
Well, Christmas is not simply about celebrating something that has happened. It is also about celebrating the continuing reality of God in the world. So does that mean that it is Christmas every day? (probably best keep that one quiet with the children!) Actually that’s the whole point about Epiphany, which in School we have spent a little bit of time looking at since at the start of this term. The three wise men visit the Christ-child with specific gifts not because it was a nice thing to do or that in any way those gifts were needed but because their role in the story was to help proclaim to the world that God – in human form – was now with us.
But where is God now? And perhaps most importantly, what on earth is he doing to sort out the problems in the world? It’s a big question and there are no easy answers. Part of the answer, however, I think is in how we relate to the world. What is it that we say and do for God and his purposes? There is a Spanish Catholic Nun – Teresa of Avila - who lived in the seventeenth century and who wrote the following prayer:
“Christ has no body but yours, No hands, no feet on earth but yours, Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world, Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.”
Recently I came across the work of a South Korean pastor called Pastor Lee Yung-rak. He takes in unwanted and abandoned babies and looks after them in his own home. He doesn’t have much money or a big house but he does what he can and it is making a real difference. He takes in these babies in quite a unique way…by way of a ‘Drop Box’ which he designed and put on the side of his house. Babies are put anonymously into the box, a bell is rung and Pastor Lee opens the other side of the box to collect the baby and look after them. It’s difficult to explain. Perhaps you might like to have a look at http://www.thedropboxfilm.com/ There is a film coming out about his work in March. It’s a truly inspiring story.
So when people ask me where is God and what is he doing to sort out the problems, I try to point them towards some of the amazing things going on in the world through people who have responded to God’s ongoing call to make a difference. Is God somehow present in the work of Pastor Lee I wonder?
So at the start of this new year, Christmas – God with us in the world for the world – is surely not something to be put back into the attic. Is it?”