When the worship committee at the church I serve met in November to plan Christmas services, knowing that we would probably need to go to an online format, one of the members suggested a shorter more intimate service, rather than offering the hour long traditional service. Taking this as a cue, as well as integrating a small virtual choir, initiated by one of my pastor colleagues, resulted in this abbreviated Christmas Eve service for our pandemic times and circumstances.
Alongside the Christmas carols going around in my head is another song,
Draw the circle wide.
No one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side.
Draw the circle wide; draw it wider still.
Let this be our song!
These words by Gordon Light invite us to broaden our circle of care and concern. If we imagine our relationships as a series of concentric circles, we usually place our concern for our own well-being at the centre. In the next circle are our close family and friends. The next circle might include our work colleagues, sports or service club, or church and neighbourhood. In the outermost circles we might put our city, country and all other human beings. Each of us has reasons to draw the circle of our attention narrower. It is not easy to bring more people into our circle of care because it means that we become vulnerable and risk heartache and disappointment.
The Christian tradition teaches that God—in risk-taking vulnerable love—spread wide the circle of peace and salvation through the coming of Christ into the world. I am glad that you and I are included in God’s embrace.
Often, it is children who have a better grasp of the meaning of these wonderful mysteries.
There is a story of three-year old child who listened and watched as his parents brought out their nativity scene: Here is Mary, the mother. Here is Joseph, and here is baby Jesus. Here are kings bringing their gifts. Here is the shepherd and the lamb. Here is the donkey and there is the cow. Having completed the scene the parents moved on to other Christmas preparations.
The next day, the parents noticed a striking change in the nativity scene. Their three-year old had set all his favourite figures into the nativity scene. Alongside the shepherds and kings were Minions and dinosaurs, bears and Donald Duck, Luke Skywalker and Thomas the Tank Engine. They were all included by the child. The circle was spread wide, wider.
(This post was originally published in “The Minister’s Minute” column in the South Delta Optimist on December 18, 2015)
I’ve had so little time for this blog this year, but I do not want to leave the year without acknowledging and giving thanks to both individuals and organizations–many of whom I have “met” on Twitter–who dedicate themselves to seek the greater good, working tirelessly to make this world a better place for all.
Each of us takes our inspiration from a variety of sources: books, movies, mentors, teachers. Having been born with a religious bent, my own desire to leave the world a better place–the selfish benefits of doing good notwithstanding–find their source in the Christian story, which opening chapter much of the world re-tells, re-fashions and celebrates this time of year.
On a rare morning off from both my work as a chaplain of sorts or spending time with my grand-children I indulged in my favorite pastime–you guessed it–exploring the inter webs, and discovered this online exhibition of crèches from around the world. One of my favorites is the one above from the Czech Republic.
I love how this scene pulls in men and women of goodwill into the event. The artisan has placed Jesus at the head of the procession, and in doing so conveys the fundamental movement of my faith, that God is always coming toward us–in spite of evidence to the contrary. But Jesus is not alone, following him is a large procession. As people of faith, as those who believe in the fundamental goodness of creation, we are not only to be passive receptacles of his love, but are called to follow Him into the world with our own particular gifts harvested from our life, the gifts of the rich having no greater status than those of ordinary folk, but all joined in common purpose to create a world, as one preacher put it, “where everyone can find abundant evidence of God’s love.”
So my dear brothers and sisters, thank-you for all you do–providing affordable housing, preserving our watersheds, fighting for refugee rights, advocating for prison reform, working to preserve an open and affordable internet, exposing government lies…the list goes on. In spite of setbacks and discouragement, remember that the good will prevail, a more just, equitable and peaceable world will sprout from the seeds of justice, truth and love you scatter in the fields each day.
Heartfelt wishes for peace and joy this Christmas to all who have stopped in to take a peek, left a comment or shared a post. I look forward to meeting you here again Between-the-Pixels in the New Year.
The Adoration of the Shepherds
Catena (Vincenzo di Biagio) (Italian, Venetian, active by 1506–died 1531) Downloaded from metmuseum.org
An invitation to see and hear more of The Christmas Story in works of art from the Metropolitan Museum.