The Tenth Day of Christmas. Through the Eyes of a Child
What if we could see Christmas through the eyes of a child again? What if we were able to put our adult perspective away for a while and just listen in child-like innocence to the unfolding of this story?
Have you driven by all the outside nativity scenes in front of houses or churches? Well, that might be cosy in warmer climates, but what about little Jesus freezing outside at 20 below? Wouldn't a child cry out: "Look, little Jesus is freezing!" How have we gotten used to the Christmas story as mere decoration item? Who had the idea to put nativity scenes outside in the snow anyway?
CAN'T YOU SEE, THE JESUS BABY IS FREEZING!
Forgive me, if you indeed have a Jesus baby in your front yard, but please, dear Minnesotans and East Coasters and all, give the baby a blanket at least!
Walking inside our religious stories in order to bring them to life in us has been a long spiritual practice across traditions and ages. Seeing through the eyes of a child does not mean to turn the story into a children's tale. It rather means the far more difficult task for us adults to become child-like again, to watch and see and listen in "dreaming innocence" (Tillich). Such an attitude is not naive. It is instead adopting Pascal's "as if" stance, as if it were all true, as if I might be there, in the midst of the story of a holy birth unfolding. In order to do this, we must overcome our well-trained intellectualizations for a moment and start to see with the eyes of our heart again. Our heart must become newly virgin - open to the mystery of Divine incarnation.
So in the next day we invite you to walk towards Epiphany with us, following the three kings on their journey, back to the stable one more time. Adopting not only the eyes of a child but its innocence of asking the obvious, difficult questions.
In doing so one must get close like children do at the Nativity play. "Smell the smells, feel the dust in one's nostrils, be the shepherd and bring a lamb, see the ways the hands move and the eyes glance, ask a question of, or say something to, someone in the story. And when one is struck by something -- joyful, afraid, disgusted, sad -- then one comes close to that thing to discover why", as Chuck has suggested so vividly in his post.
Here is what happend when I sat infront of the nativity scene borrowing the eyes of a child. You might use the image at the top, peering like a child through a keyhole. You may borrow my words or find your own. But do not be afraid to come close.
Through the eyes of a child
Almut Furchert 2014
I asked Mary if I could hold her baby.
She nodded kindly.
Jesus baby was small, much smaller
than the babies I've held before.
Carefully I picked him up
from the crib of straw
bundled in clean linen.
Holding the Jesus baby
gives me a shiver
"Don't touch the holy child!"
Some voice in me said
and I anxiously looked up to see
if some one might run up and
slap my fingers
like a child touching things
too valuable to touch.
"But it is the Jesus baby," I say
cradling it in my arms
like any other child.
I love to hold the smallest babies
Love to breathe their freshness
to feel their warmth
And listen to their quiet breathing
re-telling the story of eternity.
Wasn't the Jesus baby a baby too?
And wasn't Mary the young mother giving birth to a -- child?
Maybe I should hold Jesus a bit longer
so Mary can take a nap.
Maybe I should make her a tea?
Maybe Joseph needs a nap, too?
Or chicken soup perhaps?
Why had I never before thought
to ask Mary to hold her baby?
Usually I pass nativity scenes quickly
like other Christmas kitsch:
badly staged and oddly dressed children
on crowded Christmas eves
With their parents holding up smartphones near by.
in this empty church
In the stillness of the night
I find myself drawn to the scene
A few candles shed light on the figures
made from stony material
wrapped in rustic clothing, artful but plain.
I sit down in the straw
where the baby lay.
The stone beneath the straw is cold
as I gaze into the eyes of the shepherds
kneeling down there quietly.
I bend down with them to get a glimpse of what they see.
I glance in the eyes of Joseph who embraces Mary,
And on Mary who in turn looks back to me.
At eye level of a child,
I want to touch the Jesus baby,
to feel the clothes and the straw.
Is it not too cold for Jesus baby?
Why is it laying there on straw?
Why are the shepherds kneeling?
And why is it so small?
Birthing the holy
starts with child like questions,
questions not afraid
to take the Jesus baby out of its crib
and cradle it under the heart.
Look, it is a baby
just like those I held before;
a bundle of new life
Received by wonder and awe
in the virgin womb
of each courageous women
to the higher powers
from whom she receives the gift.
A holy gift
we can neither make nor keep.
We can only birth it in its time.
In a silent night.
Stille Nacht. Heilige Nacht. Alles schläft, einsam wacht -----
A Blessing for us all
May God incarnate
dwell in our hearts,