Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas - God Chose

The part of the Nativity that has really struck me this year is God's omniscience - that God, being omniscient, cannot be surprised. Anything that happens to Him, happens because He has decided that that is what will happen. As Jesus said about His life, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord."

So when we come to the Nativity, we come to a story in which everything that happened was chosen by God. Jesus was the only person ever to be born who was able to choose the circumstances of their birth - the family they would be born into, their social class, their country... and in Jesus, we see someone who chose the opposite of what most, if not all, people would choose.

Jesus was not born into a wealthy family, part of the elite of society.  He wasn't born in an important city. His birth was not anywhere of note. Instead, Jesus chose to be born to a poor couple, in a little town of little significance in the worlds eyes, a town that couldn't even supply Him with a room to be born in, to a people and country oppressed by a brutal foreign occupation. The person who could have had Kings attending His birth, instead chose shepherds, the people near the bottom of the social pyramid. He could have had the company of the rulers of men at His birth; instead, He was born among animals.

The story of Christmas, is the story of God choosing to identify with the poor, the oppressed, and the lowly. He chose to say of those who the world looks down on, "These are my people, and this is my family."

Saturday, 19 July 2014

This Misfit Is You

[Thank you to Anna Magdalena, whose thoughts on the subject triggered the thinking that led to this post.]  

I recently watched Frozen, and, whilst checking Behind The Voice Actors to see if I recognised any of the names (none, except for Alan Tudyk, a.k.a Wash), I noticed a poll of the viewers favourite characters from the movie. The poll was, unsurprisingly, topped by Elsa, and I believe I know why.

Elsa, like most people, is a misfit.

Now, I don't mean she is a misfit in the sense that she is an outcast from society, the sort of person who hangs around on the edges because they have no place. I mean she is a misfit in the sense of a square peg in a round hole - it will go in if you hammer it enough, but to do so requires suppressing the essential squareness of the peg. Like the X-men, Elsa has a part of herself that is integral to who she is, but which she has to hide away from everyone, even her own family. When finally she is forced to reveal this part of herself, she has to flee from everyone and everything she's known. But it is there in the wilderness that she comes to embrace that part of herself, something TV Tropes calls an I am what I am realisation. Far way from anyone who she can hurt, she is free to be herself.

I am reminded, here, of a TEDx talk I watched a while ago, about how we all have something we're hiding. I believe the reason characters like Elsa, like the X-men, resonate so much with people because we are all, on some level, misfits. We all have some aspect of ourselves that we hide, either because we are ashamed, or afraid of how people will react, or worried about damaging the relationships we have. Often, in fact I would say most of the time, these aspects of ourselves are not bad things - the term guilty pleasure is used a lot to refer to enjoying things that it is not socially acceptable for the category of people you are in to enjoy, but rarely do we ask why we should feel guilt at, for example, watching and enjoying a cartoon aimed at children. But if you do try to express yourself, you're quite likely to find someone out there who is trying to, as it were, shove you back into the closet.

Going back to Frozen, there is part where Elsa is telling Anna how it is best that she is alone, where she can be who she is without hurting anybody. Yet at the end, it's Anna's love that allows her to express who she is openly - and in doing so, find the freedom she needs to once again have a proper relationship with her sister, without hurting anyone. Until we can be free to be ourselves and to embrace who we are - and embrace each other, with all that makes us us - we're not going to be healthy, and neither will our relationships.

But once we learn to Let It Go...