15 December 2017
It strikes me that there is a lot more watching than speaking in the Christmas story. When the Word is made flesh, actual human words are lost in awe. A tiny speechless baby, bathed in heavenly light, is the focus of most nativity scenes, with his parents, the shepherds and the animals all gazing on in silent wonder. It’s as if words would be superfluous, a distraction from something that is beyond mere speech.
I often feel closest to God when I see beauty, whether it’s (as recently) the Cotswolds under new snow with every tiny twig defined in sparkling white, or London from the river by night, or a cherry tree in springtime in full, perfect blossom. But I know I need to look for God in other places too, perhaps less obvious. In the ordination service, priests are told that (among other things) they are to ‘watch for the signs of God’s new creation’. These signs may be subtle, and require us to be attentive, to be on the lookout for God on the move: God acting through some person or in some new situation.
And I know too I need to look for the face of God in other people, especially those who can most easily pass unnoticed. As Pope Francis put it, “Each one of us is invited to recognise in the fragile human being the face of Jesus who, in his human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest.” It’s so easy to hurry past the homeless person or the Big Issue seller as I rush, late, to an appointment, or to bin some of the seemingly endless requests from charities that come through the letterbox at this busy time of year. I’m trying to learn to look more closely, and to look longer.