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St Columba's Crosspool

Open to God, Welcoming All

Christmas

Extract from ‘The Secret Jesus’ by Brian Maclaren

I’ve become convinced that although Jesus’ message was personal, it was not private. I’ve been convinced that it has everything to do with public matters in general and politics in particular – including economics and aid, personal empowerment and choice, foreign policy and war. The fact is, Jesus called his message good news, itself a public term that evoked the political announcements of Roman emperors. When they would win an important military victory, they would send out messengers to announce good news. Caesar Augustus, for example, who ruled the empire from 27 BC to AD 14, articulated this good news in this inscription found in Myra, Lycia: “Divine Augustus Caesar, son of god, imperator of land and sea, the benefactor and saviour of the whole world, has brought you peace.”

I’ve become convinced that if the good news of Jesus were carried in a newspaper todays, it wouldn’t be hidden in the religion section (although it would no doubt cause a ruckus there). It would be a major story in every section, from world news (What is the path to peace, and how are we responding to our neighbours in need?) to national and local news (How are we treating children, poor people, minorities, the last, the lost, the least? How are we treating our enemies?), in the lifestyle section (Are we loving our neighbours and throwing good parties to bring people together?), the food section (Do our diets reflect concern for God’s planet and our poor neighbours, and have we invited any of them over for dinner lately?), the entertainment and sports sections (What is the point of our entertainment, and what values are we strengthening in sports?), and even in the business section (Are we serving the wrong master: money rather than God?).

In my religious upbringing, I was not taught the public and political dimensions of Jesus’ message – only the personal, private dimensions. Yes, Jesus loved me and wanted me to be good to my little brother and obedient to my parents. But Jesus’ idea that God loves my nation’s enemies, and so our foreign policies should reflect that love – that idea never crossed my mind. At some point, though, I began to get a hint that I was missing something. At that same moment, I think I began to catch a faint scent of the secret message of Jesus.


The Night before the storm died

That night, before the storm died,
and the snows stopped drifting, He cried.
His breath smoked in his mother’s face
before the late star caught the last trace
of the storm that met his birth.

Is it any birth? Apart from cold,
and lack of shelter, is it the old
pain and dread of making new flesh,
or a new womb making man afresh?
New snow over new earth?

She bleached at the cold and tried to rest
the avid child at her avid breast.
Was it for more than the physical joy?
she blessed God for the gift of the boy.
Did she see beyond his thirst?

That dawn, before anyone came,
and the sky was kindling its spare flame,
He slept. She stole out to watch it rise,
her body still aching with surprise;
The child asleep was her first.


Prayers for a Privileged People

“Here we are, practitioners of memos:  We send e-mail and we receive it,     We copy it and forward it and save it and delete it. We write to move the data, and organize the program, and keep people informed— and know and control and manage. We write and receive one-dimensional memos, that are, at best, clear and unambiguous. And then—in breathtaking ways—you summon us to song.”

by Walter Brueggemann