“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.“
There such power in new life, a baby just born, such incredible pure potential in the possibilities of life that lie stretching outwards. There is such authority in the first cries of a baby urgently calling for things needed for survival, food, water , shelter from the environment. There is such vulnerability in the human child who can not walk or sit up or see, dependent on all around and yet this baby commands, reorders and influences whole worlds with a cry and a gurgle.
In the movie “Children of Men” based on the novel of the same title by P D James there is scene that demonstrates this power/vulnerability paradox that a baby presents. The movie is set in a future were no babies have been born for 20 years. With out a future generation humanity has fallen into a dystopian gloom. There will be no one to pass legacy onto, no future generation to hand on a torch. Buildings that once thrived with purpose are not empty or repurposed. the movie Children of Men shows us a world where power and authority are used to keep a peace constantly disturbed by a lack of purpose or vision and in the certain knowledge that death will com to us all and one day the last of us will end and there will be no more. There is no hope, no future humanity is failing. Men fight over what is left trying in vain to create meaning and purpose with violence and conquest. Into this a baby is born, a child is given and authority rests upon these tiny shoulders as a cry goes out. the baby stops all the chaos and violence (ok just for a moment) and all eyes turn and attend to what this might mean for Faith, Hope and Love.
This passage, Isaiah 9 , so often heard at Christmas time and featured in Handle’s Messiah is re-framed by the Christian Church to point to Jesus. Originally this text spoke of deliverance from a time of great turmoil during the reign of King Ahaz, the people of Israel are in civil disorder from 747 – 723 BC there 6 kings of Israel – an average reign of 4 years. Destruction and violence are every where and the promises of prosperity seem so far away as men fight over what is left trying in vain to create meaning and purpose with violence and conquest. Into this is the promise of a baby born, a child given and authority rests upon these tiny shoulders as a cry goes out. The baby promised will stop all the chaos and violence and all eyes turn and attend to what this might mean for Faith, Hope and Love. It serves the Gospel writers and the early church well to have and prophet from 700+ years before speak of a Messiah and we quickly move through the words and read “authority rests upon his shoulders, and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Great will be his authority, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.” ascribing to the powerful grown up human/divine Jesus. We conceive of power only in physical forcefulness and set aside the powers this baby birth can bring. Just like the crowd gathering around the baby in Children of Men we can be lost in the moment at the manger and see to grow the baby in power and stature. we resume our effort to control our world forgetting all about the gifts such vulnerability brings us.
God could have come as the people expected, a hero some where after midnight in our wildest fantasies, to rescue us with might and power, overcoming the enemies, empires and systems that oppress us. God could have sent another king or prophet or priest to save the say with magnificent attributes to save the day. How many fantastic super heroes are needed to being an end to struggle and conflict? No matter how much power and violence are applied the struggle escalates, destruction follows and there is no resolution or reconciliation. Instead God chooses to be enter creation as a baby crying in the night. A baby to parents far from home. A baby hunted by powerful kings. A baby who must flee as a refugee and live as an outsider. Is there a plot point here or do we dismiss this part of the narrative and skip to the powerful messiah at the end of the story and discover even there that there is different meaning found because of the way this story begins.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.“
This is not a narrative about what Jesus will become a chosen one to restore and fallen empire. Light shines in darkness all is revealed, a way forward can be seen and faith, hope and love are understood in new and exciting ways.
Can we follow this narrative? looking deep inside ourselves can we find the power in our vulnerability and be ready shine light into our darkest places and be ready to take a chance on Love, Love of self, Love of our neighbor, Love of God. Can we risk setting aside our need to control, hold, overcome, manage and just listen for a moment to the sound of the Baby that cries with each of us…
Children of men is one of my fave movies and thanks for recasting it in the light of advent. Happy advent to you and yours Will!
Thanks Lindsay, it has been too long since we had a deep fire side chat. I’m glad to have connected in this way!