The traditional place of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem lies in a grotto underneath the Church of the Nativity. It is a physically dark place, yet full of candles and centuries of incense, where women outside venerate images of Mary holding the baby Jesus in icons and paintings, and the doorposts are marked with the crosses of pilgrims from a thousand years ago.
Touching these symbols, one wonders about the darkness the world has seen, and still sees, just outside the door of this church in the West Bank. For what situations did these Christians over the years seek solace? What marked their lives, and their history? What darkness have they known? What darkness will we yet know?
Though I don’t put much stock in the designated spot of Christ’s birth, I like that it is a cave-like grotto sought out by crowds every day. I like that it is dark and yet marked with the light and shadow of flickering candles and lamps. I like that despite their differences, the diverse Christian traditions take turns holding their services in there. I even like that the little man who acts as a caretaker in there hurries you through between services, barking at you if you pause too long, linger more than is seemly. When you have waited an hour or more and are rushed through and up the stairs on the other side in a matter of seconds, you glimpse something of what it is to behold light in the darkness.
It’s a fleeting experience, of something bigger than ourselves, It’s a sense that what we see isn’t all there is. It’s a belief that Christ who came in a place and a time comes still, into our darkness. That’s how light is. It’s sometimes a brief glimpse in the darkness; sometimes passed on from one to another. It’s a thing of veneration and pilgrimage when we need to know there is hope. Which is always.
This Christmas, as we celebrate, lament, and worship, may we find ourselves holding candles of Christ’s light for others as they make their way through a dark world. The world may seem full of shadows, but it matters. It’s God’s creation, marred though it may be, and it is the living stage of God’s salvation plan for the world. The way is marked with the cross of pilgrim and martyr and beckons us to catch a glimpse of what they saw – the shadows of history marked out with the light of Christ. Only, don’t linger too long.
We are sent out to shine.
Wishing a peaceful Christmas and New Year to all on behalf of the MacRae Centre. Thank you for your support this year. We look forward to new opportunities for engaging faith and culture in 2018.
The attestation that is being required of applicants for Canada summer jobs funding looks a lot like a bogeyman. I understand that in the first instance it is designed to ferret out organizations like those that place aggressive anti-abortion agendas at the heart of their work. I understand that the actions of some groups are at times offensive and hostile. I get that you are not keen to provide federal funding for their work. However, with the addition of this required attestation, you have swallowed a camel to strain out a gnat.
Christians seem to be very excited about Israel at the moment, in light of Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But there’s also a lot of arguing going on. With Israel much in the news, I sat down on the red sofa with my colleague in Old Testament studies, Dr. Glenn Wooden, to talk about Israel in the Bible and today.
While media stars continue to fall like ash from a burning effigy as a result of their abuse of women, we wonder why some are untouchable. Others of us wonder what all the fuss is about. The reality is that even if Trump fell over his mistreatment of women, this media storm is really just a flash in the pan. His ilk will continue as they always have. Women will be groped. Abused. Molested.
I am not surprised, or disgusted, or hurt. Nor am I dismayed, angry or sad. I am not offended.
This week we have read the comments of our Governor General who is reported to have railed in a speech to fellow scientists,
Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately, we’re still debating and still questioning whether humans have a role in the Earth warming up or whether even the Earth is warming up, period.
Last week we had a visit to campus from Dr. Dennis Venema, co-author with Scot McKnight of the book “Adam and the Genome”. Dr. Mike Robertson from the Acadia Science faculty had arranged for the visit with CSCA to provide a platform for Dr. Venema to talk about the genetic evidence for evolution. We grabbed a couple of minutes with him on the red sofa
I remember reading Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger when I was a seminary student twenty years ago. It was already a classic, and I was elated to finally feel understood. He was a welcome companion on the journey I was taking into understanding the relationship between faith and justice.
Recently, my attention was drawn to this video from the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion that celebrates Canadian culture as a place where you’re free to be yourself.
This seems to be one of the mantras nurturing contemporary Canadian culture. The idea is that Canadian society is an inclusive, diverse nation where everyone is free to be exactly who they define themselves to be. “When we’re free to be ourselves, then we’re free!”
A couple of weeks ago the Baptist tribe of Atlantic Canada met in Moncton for its annual gathering. I was skeptical about an item on the agenda that indicated a time for Indigenous peoples from Canada to welcome new Canadians (Syrian refugees). I was worried it would be contrived, or feel forced, as we try to squeeze together our newly-recovered sense of justice as Bible people, welcoming refugees and reconciling with indigenous communities post-TRC.