As 2012 draws to a close, Scargil’s Director Phil Stone reflects on the Christmas narrative and what we can take from it into the New Year.
It has been wonderful to welcome old and new friends as Scargill fills with people for our New Year House Party. Over the last couple of days I have enjoyed being able to give a couple of reflections on the Christmas narrative in the context of the coming year. Something we have been exploring is the various aspects of the ‘traditional story’ that don’t actually feature in the biblical narrative. For instance there is no donkey, no Three Wise Men (there are Wise Men but of an unspecified number) and no innkeeper. Despite there being no innkeeper in the biblical text it can be useful to consider the role of innkeeper as it opens a new angle on the story. I was struck by the BBC Nativity a couple of years back which I felt offered a new insight into the reason why the innkeeper had ‘no room’ at the inn. The programme suggested the reason why the couple could not find lodging was that the unexpected pregnancy of Mary would bring disgrace on anybody associated with them. Mary and Joseph were not just vulnerable because they could find no room they were vulnerable because people didn’t want to make room. Mary carried shame and people didn’t want to catch it!
When thinking about the gift of hospitality it is good to be reminded of the challenges God gives us to welcome those on the edge of our communities who are far from respectable. For us to be truly hospitable to those on the fringes it requires a conversion of the heart. Let’s be honest, sometimes being hospitable can be really tiring, difficult and annoying but it is also incredibly life giving. As the Bible says, ‘Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.’ (Romans 15.7)
This year I am struck once again by the sheer vulnerability and fragility of the Christmas Narrative. It is not for the fainthearted. If we were truly to get into the reading it would make us feel uncomfortable. It involves a great deal of risk on behalf of God and of the main characters of the narrative. J Oswald Sanders said, ‘The frontiers of the Kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.’ I think we often put Health and Safety criteria into our journey with God and of course looking at the Christmas narrative and other biblical stories that’s laughable!
And finally isn’t Bruce Cockburn absolutely brilliant? If you have the time you should check out his track Cry of a Tiny Babe. These words from the chorus send shivers down my spine, ‘Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe.’
So I wish you all the best for 2013 and that we all may have the courage to be risk takers for God and share his generous hospitality.
For more information about what is going on at Scargill in the New Year check out our online programme.