Friday, 31 December 2010
Five Festive Fridays - Witnesses
It is our Final Friday - week Five of Five Festive Fridays.
With Christmas Day past and New Year looming, it stops feeling quite so festive, but this week we are looking at the witnesses to Christ's birth: the shepherds and the wise men.
Shepherds (incongruously watching sheep in the fields, in the bleak mid-winter ... some bits of the story really don't add up with our assigned date of 25 December for the birthday) were lowly, poor people in the society of their time.
The wise men had travelled from afar, come by the signs in the stars, wealthy and respectable enough to be given audience with King Herod. What a peculiar mix of people to witness the birth of God's son.
The shepherds went home rejoicing.
The kings went home by a different route, avoiding Herod. Mary, Joseph & Jesus escaped to Egypt, before Herod unleashed his infanticide on Bethlehem.
I was thinking the other day of how awful events can taint so many lives. Take for example the recent story of Jo Yeates, missing for eight days before her body was found on Christmas Day. My sympathies go out to her family and boyfriend, worrying for days and only brought closure on what should be the most joyful day of the year. But I also thought about the couple walking their dog who found the body. Likewise, their day of peace and joy was shattered.
At the moment I am in the middle of the most escapist book (hoping for enough peace from the children to finish it this afternoon). There has been a lot of (fictional) death: shootings, explosions and wild escapes. I can tell there will be more blood and grief before the book ends! Anyone who might vaguely be a witness to the crime is on a hit list, as are their family, the police, the courts, judge and jury.
No-one can tell when they will be a witness to a major event. Sometimes we witness important events, such as car crashes or arguments. But every day we witness minor events, events that have no meaning at all to anyone but ourselves. We notice the grey hair in amongst the brown. We see our children sit, crawl, walk. We note the time that they beat us at a game without any assistance, and when we have tried really hard to beat them. We know when we are beaten, when the homework is more difficult than any that we remember. We watch our parents become more frail, need a stick more often, require glasses all the time.
We witness the passage of time in ourselves and in others. Now that Christmas is over, we witness the passage of Jesus life as he goes to his inevitable death on the cross. And after all, given that some supermarkets are already putting Easter Eggs on their shelves, shouldn't we begin to think about that sacrifice now?
Truth of our life,
You tell us God is good;
Prove it is true,
Got to your cross of wood.
From 'Born in the night' by Geoffrey Ainger