Imagine if we did not need to pray for those who die today, violently and unprepared. Imagine if the United Nations members convened in deep silence and resolved to rid the planet of all weapons of mass destruction and to prevent catastrophic climate change. Imagine if the cruelty being inflicted on the people of Ukraine, mid winter, was to cease and young people of both nations partnered in rebuilding all that had been destroyed …
Join with me, for a time, and imagine, imagine, imagine, writes Bishop Philip Huggins.
Looking again at the Nativity Scene
The essential message of the Nativity scene is that the Creator of all that is offers us a true love that never coerces. With this comes ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’. Offering this love, God chooses to come amongst us in the vulnerable and humble manner of a baby in a manger.
When St. Francis of Assisi assembled (perhaps the first) Nativity scene in 1223 for local villagers, it is said that he was overwhelmed with emotion as he spoke of the ‘babe of Bethlehem’.
Like others of the saints, his spiritual practice had taken him deep into this awareness of God’s humble love for us all.
Dear Julian of Norwich, who was granted profound ‘Revelations of the Divine Love’, said that “when we die we will be amazed!” We will meet, she says “such great love – so welcoming and in a place where no explanations are needed.”
We may then say: “I never knew. If only I had known!”
Contemplating the Nativity scene in 2022, we can see the love of God now even ahead of all eternity! This can change everything about how we choose to live in the days ahead. St Francis thereafter prayed: “Make me a channel of your peace”.
Imagine if there was even one day when no one on the planet was killed by someone else.
Imagine if we did not need to pray for those who die today, violently and unprepared.
Imagine if the United Nations members convened in deep silence for meditation and then resolved to rid the planet of all weapons of mass destruction.
Imagine, imagine, imagine.
Imagine if the brilliantly conceived Agreements to prevent catastrophic climate change and to protect the beautiful biological diversity of God’s creation (UNCOP27 and UNCOP15), were fully implemented!
Imagine if the relentless cruelty being inflicted on the people of Ukraine, mid winter, was to cease and the young people of both nations were to partner in rebuilding all the homes, hospitals, schools and power plants that have been psycho-pathically destroyed…
Imagine if everyone and every nation actually lived by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as regards freedom of religion. Imagine if everyone had the freedom to search without loveless coercion. A freedom to either have a religion or not; to change religion, even to change back or change again in the personal quest for beauty, truth and kindness.
Imagine the referendum on the Voice is passed by a wonderful majority of the Australian people.
Imagine if we all lived the prayer Jesus gives us, especially “forgive us… as we forgive”, so we can better choose to heal, never to harm.
Notwithstanding the mistakes of institutional religion, the ‘babe of Bethlehem’ leaves us utterly free as to if, when and the extent to which we will seek divine communion. The love of God keeps coming, freely given. The invitation continues to be given that we then respond in love of our neighbours, making our best contributions to the good of all.
All this we might contemplate, for two focused reasons, when looking at the Nativity scene again this Christmas.
Firstly, when we hold a little baby we know their vulnerability.
Is there anything more beautiful than when a baby smiles back at us?
The Nativity scene invites us to refresh the wonder we share with those who were drawn to the birth of Jesus by angels and by a star. Here is humankind’s Saviour, a vulnerable baby ‘lying in a manger’. We are filled with love, not fear, as we behold God amongst us born of Mary.
When Fra Angelico painted the image in this article, he quoted from a hymn: ‘the One who made all things held the whole world, even while in Mary’s womb.’
A second contemplation relates to how one of Fra Angelico’s Nativity paintings is referenced in the drawings and messages we are sending to children in Ukraine this Christmas.
In the Christmas Day Gospel we will hear again that: “The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us… full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Thus, contemplating the Nativity scene in 2022, we do what we can to make real the love of God for all people now. Thus we give what cheer we can to folk in the darkness and dread of war ravaged Ukraine, as well as folk nearer to home.
In the Christmas Eucharist these profound matters become who we are. Truly loved and loving, we receive and we give.