18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”
Again, so soon after celebrating the birth of Christ we are taken to the end of the Gospels – this time, John. Nouwen challenges us to see a surrender to the unknown as a sign of spiritual maturity, rather than weakness.
We are asked to pray that we will be able to willingly subject our way to God’s will. To follow Jesus. Perhaps, even to take up our cross?
All this didn’t leave me feeling very Christmassy. Christmas is a time of joy and celebration – the darker turn to the tale can wait a few weeks, can’t it? Yet ultimately the end of the tale figures right in the Christmas experience at church. Without the end of the story, there would be no midnight mass. There could be a service, but it wouldn’t be mass.
So, other than turning more towards the end of Jesus’ life, how can we see anything of the early stories of Jesus in today’s thought? Perhaps it is this: without Easter there would be no Christmas; without Christmas there would be no Easter. Even at the start of the Gospels we hear the tale of John the Baptist echoing the prophecies of old. As John might have said if it were today: Hey folks, this is it. It’s not some great King with a crown and a huge army. It is that most unlikely of things – a baby, lying in a manger. God, loving us as we love a baby – unconditional, forgiving love. That love being so great that he is willing to give us his firstborn to serve us all. May we be willing to give ourselves to God, even if we meet him the most unlikely places.