Words of wisdom to lift our spirits

Jesus to a child

Kindness

In your eyes, I guess

You heard me cry

You smiled at me

Like Jesus to a child

I’m blessed

I know

Heaven sent

And Heaven stole

You smiled at me

Like Jesus to a child

Sadness

In my eyes

No one guessed

Or no none tried

You smiled at me

Like Jesus to a child

– George Michael (January 8, 1996)

“When Jesus got home, he was told that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed. Jesus went straight to her. He smiled at her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she waited on them.” (Mark 1:30 – 31)

“Later on, as he walked through Galilee, a man said “you have the power to make me well, if you want to. Jesus felt sorry for the man, smiled, put his hand on him and said, ’I want to! Now you are well’.” (Mark 1:40 – 41)

This is the mental image that I have of Jesus.

An unshaven, dark haired, sallow skinned man of medium height with a kindly smile. Nothing striking, just an everyday Palestinian man.

A demeanour starkly at odds with the stern poise and gravitas of the teachers of the law.

What does your mental picture of Jesus look like?

And how was it formed?

I’ll hazard a guess that your image of Jesus was at least partially formed by the unusual stories about his birth.

Who can resist the image of the manger, flood lit by an unusually bright star, populated by incredulous shepherds leaning on their crooks, the mother and father aglow with pride, awaiting the visit of scholars from the East.

The hymn writers were correct when they referred to the possibility of snow. In winter it snows on the high ground around Jerusalem and it can be very chilly indeed.

But what about the rest, how literally do you take the Biblical stories accompanying the birth of Jesus?

Are you aware that the birth of significant people in ancient times, was always claimed to have been accompanied by extraordinary events?

The birth of great rulers, kings and prophets had to be clearly distinguished from the birth of common people.

And so, your mental picture of Jesus has been influenced by the extraordinary stories surrounding his birth. It is difficult to resist the charm and romantic appeal of these accounts.

However, accepting these accounts as facts can become the building blocks of a view of Jesus that is very far removed from the ordinariness of everyday life.

Imagine there’s a different way of understanding Jesus’ birth.

Imagine there is no birth in Bethlehem but one, not far away, at Nazareth.

Imagine there is no stable or manger or farm animals, just a small crib in a tidy little Palestinian home.

A few relatives and friends have gathered to support the young couple. It is a very still night and the usual canopy of stars is crystal clear.

Imagine there are no angels or shepherds and there are no eminent scholars on their way from the East.

Imagine the family celebrating peacefully. Unconcerned about having to leave at a moment’s notice and travel a long way into a foreign country in order to escape a mad ruler’s threat of infanticide.

My concern is that these colourful nativity stories can make it difficult to engage with the true essence of this God event.

These stories may have been necessary at that point in history, but in a scientific age the words can be easily seen as the wild imaginings of a primitive people.

John’s Gospel goes straight to the heart of the matter.

“The Word became a human being and lived here with us.” John 1:14

Peace, Shalom, As Salaam

Rudyard Harrison is a retired Methodist minister, and continues his work as a counsellor at the Ruach Centre at the church, on Coronation Street, Somerset West. The word Ruach is Hebrew for spirit, breath or wind.