A Christmas Message: All Gift, And No Threat

A radio broadcast described someone's life as 'all gift, no threat'. Could we want anything better said of us? The person in human history who most deserves that epitaph is, surely, Jesus. All kinds of people - not just Christians - celebrate his birthday because he had the quality of Defenceless but Lion-hearted Love. He was defenceless, not because he was a wimp, but because his love was lion-hearted and included everyone. He was the biggest person he could be. He wasted not one breath, not one second, on defensiveness, prevarication or self-calculation. He gave everything he had to give, yet he was never a pushover. He stood up to people, not out of fear or malice, but out of integrity and compassion.

'Yes, but he had a divine advantage over us, nobody else could be like that' I hear someone say. Aidan of Lindisfarne (a Cradle of Christianity) deserves this epitaph, too. Although the pagan English and the marginalised Britons might at first have seen him and his monks as a threat, Aidan soon showed that he was not there to be a drain on the people - he gave all his money to the poor. Although he was, inevitably, a king's man, he refused royal protection and a royal horse, walked everyone, never sponged, and that is why they welcomed his teams into the villages. He seemed a threat to 'fat landowners' who disliked his emphasis on justice, but he was not a threat to THEM, only to their false ways of life. Kate Tristram writes 'Aidan's total self-giving, to the people of the land, to his colleagues, to his rulers, surely flowed out of his self-giving to his God, who Aidan knew as the God of self-giving love, always being poured out without distinction' (in 'Waymarks for the Journey' December 18).

This emboldens us twenty-first century children of Aidan to lay hold of the eternal and universal Christ whom we now celebrate, so that at our end it may also be said that we were 'all gift, and no threat'. That is how Christmas can last for ever.

Posted at 00:37am on 20th December 2010
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