Friday, 13 December 2013

Special care baby

Baby Jesus gets special treatment at the hospital
Pills, painkillers, nasal sprays and bowls of steaming water have been my Advent companions for a week now.

Sometimes these things are spiritual lessons, sometimes random, but it is odd that I came back from a helpful spiritual direction session which boiled down to the subject of being (unless I am content 'being' and being loved in God, I cannot be an effective 'doer') and immediately I went down with tonsillitis. So I have been spectacularly 'doing' nothing ever since. Just trying to be comfortable with the being thing.

As a result I have been a marginally better patient than normal. I have been a slightly more 'patient' patient. Nearly. My mainstay has been Matthew's gospel and the Jesus who seeks solitude (e.g. on hearing John the Baptist has died) and appears to ignore need, or to say no to some requests (e.g. bizarre interaction with the Canaanite woman).

Along the way I have enjoyed taking part in the #adventbookclub discussions on Twitter as various people read Maggi Dawn's Beginnings and Endings and comment on its biblical insights - so day 12 and 13, aptly, show Elijah's physical and mental collapse after the prophets of Baal encounter, and recollect that God is as interested in our physical and mental health as our spiritual endeavours: 'Knowing that at the moment of extreme weakness, not a sharp spiritual lesson but food, drink and sleep is enough to reduce any burnt out minister to tears' (p. 64). Yes.

In an Advent Study Group we heard a lovely anecdote about some nativity figures, brought out yearly at our local hospital. Christ with us, literally, Emmanuel on the work surface next to the packs of surgical gloves and other healing paraphernalia. One of our church family works there and had voiced her feeling that 'baby Jesus' should be kept out of the scene till Christmas day. He was duly removed. She went away, he was brought back out. She came back, he was reluctantly removed. Popular opinion won and he remained out, but in deference to her liturgical scruples, someone erected a little sign: 'Baby Jesus is premature'. Our church friend couldn't resist a comeback: she duly made the baby Jesus his own incubator (see photograph).

I had a baby in special care once, just for a night, not premature, but she did have a hole in the heart. All wired up inside a little breathing tent, I couldn't reach in to comfort her when she was crying, which just about broke my heart. You want to protect a baby, a baby is vulnerable. Even Emmanuel.

The more I 'be', the more I am discomforted by the Jesus who wasn't afraid of being vulnerable, who got upset, wept, withdrew, said no, got tired, got exposed to the difficult world, got killed. 

This Advent, waiting to get back to being active is proving a fruitful, if trying, time.

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