A common misconception is that Christianity is all a bit polite, a bit genteel; like tea and buns with the vicar. But No! Christianity consistently challenges us with questions about life, the universe and everything at every turn.
As I write, we are moving from harvest time through Advent, to winter and Christmas and throughout it all, there is nothing restrained about the Christian message. The bible readings we use at harvest are drawn from many passages which speak of abundant growth: Advent is when we look at people like Abraham, Moses and others who restate the same message of this presumptuous God who won’t go away, endorsed later by the Prophets. And of course, Christmas, which contrary to what we might think, wasn’t quiet and unobtrusive at all – just ask any woman who’s given birth!
One of the ways we have explored this at St George’s is using our trebuchet. Yes, correct, we’ve still got it and it remains a serious piece of kit. Our trebuchet represents a powerful, insistent God who won’t stop from wanting His message to break through. At harvest time, we think about the fruit of the Spirit, big concepts like love, joy, peace, faithfulness. It’s no coincidence that those same concepts crop up again throughout Advent and again at Christmas. People whose lives were very different to our own related to exactly the same “fruits” and concluded that actually, there is something bigger than us going on in the world.
You may be thinking, now hang on; isn’t a trebuchet a weapon of war for smashing through stone walls? Yes, it is; but how about employing such a weapon to break though walls of a different sort? The wall of Christmas nostalgia perhaps, where we build a picture of an imagined past where all was well; and we build a wall of glittery things to crouch behind and pretend that the world does not contain darkness, ever. Yet even a cursory look through human history soon shows that there never was such a time.
Or perhaps we build a wall of complete certainty in humanity’s own ability to make everything good. There are always building blocks ready for that wall; do enough research, use the right words, draft the right policies then, we say, we’ll be fine. Fancy another look through history anyone? And I do of course include in that the abuse of position by the Church.
But maybe we just encounter questions about life, the universe and everything and build an endless series of walls; thrown up and torn down in the blink of an eye because life is what it is, no point thinking more than that.
Christianity, powerful and insistent, calls us to celebrate God’s interaction with His world throughout the year, not only at Christmas time. But whilst it is, of course, good to have a lovely Christmas (and a sadness that many do not) Christmas is a particularly poignant time to think about the walls we may perhaps build… and to take them down; to simply enter the stable and encounter a powerful peace, a firm justice and an unflinching love.