Human frailty was brought home to us on Friday the 14th December 2012 when a young man of twenty took the lives of as many children and a few adults for reasons unknown. The fragility of human life is brought home to us at this time of the year when life is active at one level yet it is in a state of inactivity and hibernation. The Christmas story intensifies this period of transition from darkness to light when we celebrate new life in the midst of death and hope in utter hopelessness. I hope you do not mind this ramble before we return to the Nativity story.
Some of you may recall the story of the Messiah in the church hall which I narrated last year! Well, I was told off by a young academic that I made a mockery of the Christian faith. The point of the story was that the loving relationship between the Creator the Creation is marred by a gap in communication and that the Christmas story seeks to bridge that gap. Sadly, the story had the opposite effect, as far as I know, at least on one person! So, I decided to quit seeking stories with a moral and laughter.
However, I came across this meaningful meditation on quitting which I hope you don’t mind me sharing.
One day I decided to quit…I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality…. I wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God.
“God”, I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”
His answer surprised me.
“Look around”, He said. “Do you see the fern and the bamboo?”
“Yes”, I replied.
“When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.
“In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.
“In year three there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit. The same in year four!
“Then in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.
Compared to the fern, it was seemingly small and insignificant.
But just six months later, the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.
It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle.
“Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo nor will I quit on you!
“Don’t compare yourself to others.” God said. “The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful.
“Your time will come”, God said to me. “You will rise high.”
“How high should I rise?” I asked.
“How high will the bamboo rise?” He asked in return.
“As high as it can?” I questioned.
“Yes.” God said, “Give your utmost for the Highest and let me do the rest.”
I left the forest, realizing that God will never give up on me. God will never give up on us.
Good days give us happiness; bad days give us experience; both are essential to life.
What’s all this got to do with Christmas, you may wonder. Given the realities of life as we face it, with economic crisis, political instability in parts of the world, news of massacre of the innocent, we might want to quit and embrace apathy and indifference. The world in which Jesus was born into was a world of apathy and indifference. While it may have been a world of apathy and indifference to most, one young woman believed in possibilities, the story goes. When everything looks gloomy and bleak, Mary believed in a world of hope. “Mary did you know!” She knew something – not to quit like others – to believe in goodness, truth, justice, peace and joy. She refused to quit and we celebrate!
God’s refusal to quit on humanity is the essence of Christmas story. However much the evil may seem to overwhelm, the love of God revealed the Christ child will prevail.