Let’s start this month with a confession; it is, after all, good for the soul…
I started listening to Christmas carols in October! By November I’d broken out my Christmas socks and so now we’re in Advent I can barely contain myself!!!
I love Christmas for all that it means and am again struck by the depth and breadth of its meaning and implication.
We’ve been wandering through the pages of Mark’s gospel considering the journey of discipleship undertaken by the 12 and it may perhaps be an odd one to combine Christmas and our topic given that the disciples probably weren’t born when Jesus was and they are unlikely to have ever celebrated Christmas but let’s have a go!
We’re up to chapter 8 and we meet Jesus and the disciples repeating the feeding of thousands from a tiny packed lunch. They then get into a boat and realise, rather ironically, that they have forgotten bring enough bread with them… Jesus hears them and says:
‘Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread?
Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?’ (v17-18)
Jesus then walks them through the miraculous feedings and asks:
“Do you still not understand?” (v21).
They move on and soon encounter a man born blind… Someone who has eyes but fails to see…
Jesus does something that I don’t suggest you try…
‘They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Hmmm… Has Jesus messed it up? Is this one beyond even him?!
‘Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes.
Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.’ (v23-25)
Interesting… So what happens next?
‘Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi.
On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked.
“Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”’ (v27-29)
Now Peter sees…
The healing of the blind man is an ‘acted parable’; something that Jesus does to illustrate a bigger point. It is purposefully placed in the middle of the other stories of the 12’s struggle to grasp who Jesus really is. We see how the blind man was brought to Jesus by others. Jesus then takes him to one side to engage with him personally however the healing is not instant but sight is gained as a process.
It is a story that teaches us that discipleship (gaining sight) is a process that takes time; that it cannot be walked alone but at times requires others to bring you to Jesus or you to point others to him; and that Jesus is the only one who can and will enable you to see who He is, and consequently who you are and who others are/can be.
Those things are echoed in the Christmas message. Jesus was born as a baby; he didn’t simply appear out of the desert one day strolling purposefully at the age of 30… Why? Well, there are lots of reasons but perhaps it’s because God values taking His time. Through Jesus, He reveals Himself to us, step by step, over years and years, as He has patiently done through the Scriptures and the history of Israel up to that point. It enables us to see so much more of who He is and offers an invitation to walk alongside him, learning from others who are ahead of us on the path and enabling others to learn from us, as we gradually grasp the incredible love, grace, mercy and strength of the One who brings sight to us all, the blind and partially sighted.
So, this Christmas, take some time to eat, drink (in a way that honours God!) and enjoy the company of friends and family. Consciously share, discuss, reflect and celebrate the journey we have taken this year and whether we look more like Jesus and see more of him than we did in January. And then take some time to thank God, together, and pray for each other that the journey will continue into 2015.