‘What child is this ElizabethJoyPortrait
who laid to rest ..’?

The carol, ‘What Child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping’? is one of my favourite since learning it in a college choir. I loved singing it both in the college as well as our church choir almost every year.  However, this carol seems to have become a nightmare for me this year.
The picture of an innocent child, face down and dead on the shores of Greece this year haunts many of us. This one picture could depict well many of the unfortunate and unjust things that happened in 2015. The war in Syria with its destruction of lives, cultures, religious, social and historical monuments, and the targeted role that people played in trafficking people, and the manner in which profit is set before people in cheating them of what they have, and pushing them to uncertain and difficult realities, is deeply disturbing.

This forms the context in which we as Christians will be celebrating Christmas this year.  How does Christmas or the birth of Christ become meaningful for us and others around us this year as well as in the New Year 2016? There are many ways to do it and this year I would like to reflect on mending ourselves or fixing ourselves and not others.

When I came to UK to work with the Council for World Mission (CWM) in October 2002, it was the first time I was experiencing winter away from the tropical Indian climate especially Bangalore where I was born and brought up.  This was the first time in my life I had to travel by train to work.  It was a very short 18 minute train journey from Baron’s Court to James’ Park.  A few things caught my attention but something changed the meaning of Christmas entirely for me and made me understand what it was better than I had ever before understood. I am very grateful to God for that and share it.

Every day, as I passed through London Victoria Station, I would repeatedly hear this announcement, ‘Mind the gap, mind the Gap between the train and the platform’. Initially, it annoyed me but also it reminded me that I will have to alight at the next station!

However, as days and months passed by, I began to appreciate this announcement.  It just dawned on me, how important it is to mind the gap for our own safety.  Also, the transport authorities were very particular to warn the people who in their hurry can miss it. Very often in our busy life we forget to notice many things. One of these is the growing GAP in relationship between us and our loved ones, neighbours, colleagues and of course enemies too.  This is true not just in our individual lives but in our corporate lives too as communities, societies and nations too.

How good it would be if someone could remind us every day to ‘mind the gap in our relationship – between husband and wife, parents and children, siblings, colleagues, employees and employers, men and women in relation to discrimination including wages,  understanding sexuality; between Nations that struggle to bridge the gap of hostility and enmity.  This is what exactly happened in the Garden of Eden after the fall when Adam and Eve along with the whole of creation became estranged from God.  There was a huge GAP and it had to be bridged.

The event which initiated this process of bridging the gap is Incarnation through which God became a human person, Immanuel – ‘God with us’.  This is what the daily announcement ‘Mind the Gap’ convinced me of, and I treasure this conviction.

Bridging the gap in relationship demands two actions from parties concerned at any level.  Firstly, ‘giving’ for after all Christmas began with giving – ‘For God so loved the World that he gave his only begotten son…’ (John 3:16). Secondly, it demands ‘Forgiving’ – the ability to reconcile, forgive, love and let others live. If we strive to bridge the gap in our relationships, we need to remember that this will involve giving respect, lost identities, resources and opportunities to get back to a normal life.  This demands a compassionate look at what we have caused in the name of development, liberation or even achieving peace. Giving will include restoring. This will then lead to forgiving – from both parties, at different levels, as no one individual or group can be totally just, pure or right.

This needs to happen in every home, community, society and nation.  What prevents us from doing this? We fail to notice the problems within us and begin to reform others, specifically those with whom we need to reconcile! This is very similar to the story that Jesus says, trying to take out the spec in another person’s eye when we have a log in our own eye. We are very keen that the other person, community or nation has to repent, change or be transformed.

Christmas reiterates the process of Theosis which is important in the Orthodox faith and understanding.  Theosis is the process where we believe that God became a human being that we may become one like God. Theosis is the goal of Spirituality in the Oriental Orthodox Faith. It is not becoming God but like God. Incarnation, whereby God took flesh and became a human person in order that the existing gap can be bridged and we can grow in our faith and action to be like God. So, if we begin to understand why God became a human person and see where we have gone wrong to fix that first, we will be able to bring about Transformation.

May this season of ‘Giving and Forgiving’ enable us to ‘MIND THE GAP’ in all our relationships and bridge the gap with LOVE.  May the birth of Christ bridge every gap that keeps us as communities and nations at war with each other leading us to experience the peace that passes all understanding.

Wishing you a very Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year 2016!

Elizabeth Joy
NEO, MOSC (Indian Orthodox Church) and a Volunteer at CTE for CCMS HT

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