9. December 2018

Through the eyes of a child

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‘…For to us a child is born…’ (Isaiah 9, 6)

When the passage from Isaiah which we heard read earlier is discussed, invariably the attention concentrates on the four-fold name ascribed to what is understood to be the Messiah. But for me, what is interesting is the fact that the Messiah is described in terms of a ‘child’, a ‘son’…Not somebody that will grow up to be Messiah; as a child, He is Messiah. Jesus, even whilst He lay in the manger is the ‘Wonderful Counsellor’, ‘the Mighty Hero’, ‘the Everlasting Father’, the ‘Prince of Peace’. It is the fact that it is a child that is described in this way that confronts us, and challenges our assumptions. More often than not a child is told to be seen but not heard. Rarely if ever do we listen to a child’s point of view, and if we do, we tend to do so in a fairly patronising way, ultimately dismissive of the opinion expressed…

“Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limit of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.” (Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being)

…Or to put it more prosaically, is there anything more infuriating than having a child continually asking, ‘why?’. Regardless of any number of attempted answers, none proves satisfactory, because in the end there is no answer to the question, ‘why?’. And yet, when we as adults contemplate the world around us, the thought that comes quickly to mind is, ‘why?’. Even when we pray, when we confront God, invariably it is all to do with, ‘why?’. It is a humbling experience unlike any other to be made to realise that there are boundary conditions that attach to our being human – mortality is more than just a matter of life and death – it is all to do with a willingness to appreciate that we can never go beyond ourselves: intellectually, emotionally, even spiritually. To be truly human is to be prepared to have one’s vulnerabilities exposed; to be made to realise just how fragile each one of us is. Yet, for all our fragility, regardless of our essential vulnerability, life has to be lived, and we are called, as Christians to live a life that is one that is lived to the full, abundantly; a life that is shared with the lives of others; a life that is lived for the sake of others; a life that is a Godly life, a God-fearing life; Christlike

“The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet it is oft the course of deeds that movethe wheels of the world: Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring).

So, we are to be encouraged, the world can be transformed by those who are the most vulnerable, the most fragile; by those who are humble enough to acknowledge that is how it is as far as they are concerned. Prior to introducing us to the Messiah – a child to be born, a Son to be given – the prophet has described how it used to be , how it would be no more; war weary warriors, their lives spent in the futility of battle, - ‘every boot of the tramping warrior and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire’ – it doesn’t have to be this way, and if God is allowed to have God’s way it will not be this way. It is not about lauding it over another, but rather in the service of one another that the way will be found to establish God’s Kingdom. Jesus’ coming as He does, as a child, as a Son, invites us, even dares us to contemplate the awesome possibility that there is another way. The world of course is not easily persuaded, and if we are honest, neither are we, it takes more than just a set of pious platitudes all dressed up in swaddling clothes to change the mindset of humanity…

“I believe that Jesus would have given His life for just one person. Jesus emptied Himself, He humbled Himself and He so yielded Himself to His Father's love that He had no ambition of His own. He was not looking to build an empire, He did not want praise or adulation or to impress people with who or how many followed Him. He stopped over and over again for just one person, for just one life.” (Heidi Baker, Learning to Love: Passion, Compassion and the Essence of the Gospel).

And so it is with us, for us, each one of us. In Jesus, God looks each one of us in the eye, through the eyes of a child. In Jesus God sees the world, through the eyes of a child. In Jesus, God calls each one of us to view the world through child like eyes; to recognise just how vulnerable each and everyone of us is; to appreciate just how fragile we all are. Yet at the same time, we are to be reassured in knowing that we, all of us, are children of God on account of what has been accomplished on our behalf in and through the ministry and mission, the life and death of Jesus. There is nothing that can separate God’s children from a Father’s love. God raised Jesus from the dead; the touchstone, the lightening rod of faith. If we dare to believe it to be so, then we can be embraced by the prophet’s impressive conclusion, ‘Of the increase of His Government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over His Kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.’This is what has its beginning @ Bethlehem, ’a child is born’.