By Father Haynes Q Hubbard [email protected]
Father Haynes Q Hubbard is the St Vincent’s Anglican Chaplain for the three congregations in the Algarve. He lives in Luz with his wife and three children.
It was the Christmas play at Barlavento School in Espiche, where our youngest attends. He was in his pyjamas, dressed as a ‘dove of peace’, along with the rest of the five year olds, waiting for their moment to sing.
The older ones, with the lines, were getting on with the play, about the ‘peace-child’, who would bring peace to the warring tribes: if only the parents would allow it to be so.
The two narrators (who offered stellar performances, I thought) were giving us the background of the conflict between the two tribes and expressing their frustration that the tribes were being so obstinate, so obtuse (though they didn’t use that word).
They knew, as we their audience knew by now also, what was needed. They could see that the two tribes, traditional and implacable enemies for generations, needed desperately to break the cycle.
To move beyond their present reality – hatred and disdain for the other tribe – and into this new reality: potential but within grasp, of peace.
“Just open your eyes and see what’s right in front of you!” said the one in her exasperation to the characters on stage.
To which the other replied: “They can’t hear you, you’re only a narrator. They are the characters, caught in their own little world. What is obvious to us is not at all to them.”
“Then they need someone in the story to tell them what the rest of us can see in plain sight. If they don’t welcome the ‘peace-child’, they will never, ever, be happy.”
Which is pretty much a sound bite from the Christian understanding of what this season is all about.
That we, in our determination to carry on bravely but foolishly, muddle about. We try and escape our dilemmas. We try and determine our present and our future. But we are, no matter how hard we try – and wish we were not – products of what we find ourselves in.
And the message of the Christian Christmas is that we are stuck, whether we know it or not (and everyone knows it, deep down inside), in need, desperately, of a ‘peace-child’, who is here, right in our midst, but so often ignored and shunned, by us clever ones.
Christmas is not, despite our having wrapped it up to be so, about us at all. It’s not about being kind to one another and remembering the less fortunate. It’s not about our generosity and once a year remembering our long forgotten aunt in New Zealand. That’s all tremendously important, and even vital to who and what we are, but it’s not what Christmas is about; at least not the Christian Christmas.
Christmas, for Christians, is much more revolutionary than that. Christmas, the insertion of that original ‘Peace-Child’ – Jesus Christ – into the mire and muck of this world is not about having good manners.
It’s not about being kind to your neighbour and hugging Grandfather, despite his whiskery chin. Christmas, according to the original story (which often gets lost in translation), is a brutally aggressive plan on behalf of the Narrator – God Himself – to allow us, the characters in the play, to be people of Hope.
Hope that we won’t always be in this muddle. Hope that, despite our inability to grasp the big picture, Someone can, and does. And His grasp, His Vision, is now shared with us. In the Life, Witness, Death and Resurrection of this Peace-Child whose birth we pause for a moment to contemplate this December 25. Jesus Christ, the original and real, Child of Peace.
There are churches up and down the Algarve this Christmas who would welcome you to join them, as they celebrate, in awe and wonder, the meaning and mystery of this Child, this Jesus, Son of God, now among us. You would be in good company indeed.
Fr. Haynes Hubbard is Senior Chaplain of St. Vincent’s Chaplaincy, Church of England. Visit www.stvincentsalgarve.org to find out about services in the Algarve