And so it’s Christmas, nearly. Today my wife and I will buy a tree, begin to write cards (she writes I sign). This process has occurred 33 times; during this period we told daughter number one: ‘There is no Father Christmas, Christmas is, in fact, pagan’. Like all three year olds she smiled sweetly and looked slightly perplexed, then continued wildly ripping her carefully wrapped presents open, discarded the toy and played with the box. Over the next couple of years we also explained that, although we went to church every Sunday we did not go at Christmas because it was traditional and religious; we in fact only ‘did’ Christmas for the sake of wider family.
A couple of years later, and less worried that believing in fantasies would wreck their faith in Christ, daughter number two got to believe in Santa; briefly! Daughter number one, in a fit of pique and proclaiming, ‘It’s not fair, why is she allowed to believe in Father Christmas and when I’m not?!’, made sure her little sister’s belief in Santa went up in smoke and that she too would have to endure the family Christmas theology. This outburst brought the whole conflicted, muddled Fusher family ‘Sacred/Secular’ house of cards down with one exasperated puff. Over the years we have softened our views, gone to the occasional midnight mass and learnt how to put the fun back into fundamental and to replace ‘I believe’ with ‘In my opinion’. So, in the spirit of the season, I thought I would hang another bauble on the Emergent Village Christmas tree, alongside the posts by Randy Woodley and Micheal D Bobo.
All of us hear people say, ‘Oh, Jesus – He was a good man’. Or, ‘He was a great man’. Put them all together and they start to sound like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now; rambling, effusive, verging on meaningless, designed to end the conversation, change the subject, move on. Amongst ourselves: ‘Virgin birth? Hmm, dunno, myth maybe’. Talk to a Muslim and he/she considers the whole thing blasphemous. I grew up with the gospels and Greek legends equally; Zeus sees Leda, wants her there and then, turns into a swan and rapes her. What is the difference between Mary and Leda? In my opinion it goes something like this…
In the Genesis story God breathes on the dust and man is created, woman comes from Adam’s rib and God nurtures mankind in the garden. A safe comforting environment to grow and develop in, we stumble etc, and God begins His redemptive arc through time culminating in Jesus. Now, how is God incarnate going to come to earth?
God did the garden thing once, why not do it again with Jesus? Find a quiet spot in the wilderness, hedge it around with angels, impenetrable fences, breathe on the dust… instant Jesus. The angels spend 30 years telling Jesus about life outside the camp, how people live; explain to him what it is to be human, then at just the right time, push him out into the real world. Would this be the Jesus we know? Or would he be more like Roy Batty in Blade runner, a replicant programmed to be ‘human’, built for a purpose, lacking history, ancestry and family, given false memories to enhance his ‘humanity’. In Jesus’ case born merely to die a sacrifice?
Before going back to Jesus’ birth, think about a simple household task. In the UK we love tea, how do you make a perfect cuppa?
1. Take kettle to tap
2. Turn on cold water and fill kettle
3. Switch kettle on and boil water
4. Open cupboard, take out tea
5. Get mugs, add milk
6. Once water boiled pour some into teapot to warm it up
7. empty tea pot and add three teaspoons of tea, pour in boiling water, stir, leave to brew for five minutes
8. Place tea strainer over mugs, pour tea
Please note: Brits do NOT put cream in tea; we mainly use semi skimmed milk!
And the reason for the tea making lesson? In families we learn possibly tens of thousands of ‘flow charts’ for living life. There was only ever one place an incarnate God could learn to be human: in a family. Why not then, we may ask, did God not just drop baby Jesus outside a house, knock on a door and run away? A man opens the door, already poverty stricken and with too many mouths to feed, shuts the door and leaves the child to its fate. Far better to put the child into a family from conception, bonded in the womb with a loving mother. The divine, feminine, Holy Spirit creates life in Mary’s womb. Jesus grows up fully human, intuitive, intelligent and integrated into our life. You see, I am of the opinion that as much as we do not understand God fully, He, equally, in spite of being all seeing and all knowing wanted and needed to know exactly what the human experience was like; to love within a dysfunctional family, to be stretched to breaking point by circumstance. To ache with yearning and guilt as temptation tips us over the edge. For Him, outside of time to know the realities of a finite existence, to smell and see this world through human eyes, the beauty of dawn, spring flowers, the joy of family weddings all the good things we enjoy; the sheer thrill of being alive.
When I was 21 I could not have countenanced calling the Holy Spirit ‘feminine’ at 54 I can, just about, because all those Christmases amount to dialogue with Father, my wife and children our faith means peripherals like doctrine and theology, church practices etc do not define us. Jesus Christ does.