Divinity is young reflection for Dec13 Advent 3
‘In the beginning the baby was born…God/de chose Mary to be the mother of God/de… listen carefully… and the word became a wordless child…’ from Godly Play by Jerome Berryman
The stories of Christmas put the child at the centre
They ask who or what is God/de if God/de chooses to come to us a baby?
To grow up with us? To trust all of life to us? To live with and amongst and in and through us?
The Child Theology movement has grown enormously over the last 20 years with people like US Professor Marcia Bunge and our own Vivienne Mountain and Beth Barnett
But Karl Rahner, the Jesuit priest who was born in 1904 wrote:
…provided we reverently and lovingly preserve this state of being delivered over to the mystery, life becomes for us a state in which our original childhood is preserved for ever; a state in which we are open to expect the unexpected, to commit ourselves to the incalculable, a state which endows us with the power still to be able to play, to recognise that the powers presiding over our existence are greater than our own designs, and to submit to their control as our deepest good.
Godly Play the Spirit of the child – SPIRIT acronym
- Space: Space has positive or negative influence on spiritual well-being.
- Process: Spirituality is more about process than product. When product is stressed spirituality gets lost.
- Imagination: Sometimes there is a fear of imagination in religious work; or we think we need right answers; we try to teach religion
- Relationship: Creating authentic models of relating to one another.
- Intimacy: Spirituality thrives on intimacy and “coming closer.”
- Trust: Essential to the maintenance of the spiritual life; being comfortable with different kinds of knowing, and not knowing.
Aspects of Children’s Spirituality – Based on research by Dr. Rebecca Nye
Children have the capacity to experience their spirituality in the midst of the
every-day, it is not exclusively about the extraordinary. Spirituality is fundamental and entirely natural to childhood. It is not something adults need to ‘pour in’, but something we can enable to shine out.
Children experience spirituality as a part of all that they do and all that they are. Their spirituality is not compartmentalised, it is connected to how they understand themselves.
Children have the ability to leap from profound abstract thought to normal, every day topics within one conversation or from day to day.
- Verbal and non-verbal
Children are multi-lingual (language of home, school, video games, television, interests, etc.) and they express their spirituality in a variety of ways.
- Depth, Surprise, Challenge
A genuine feature of children’s spirituality is that it is rich, prophetic, and deep. 6.
Children long for and rarely have a safe place to share their experiences. Often when they do share their experiences they are belittled, laughed at or not believed. Over time children begin to hide or ignore their spirituality.
We are being invited to hear the stories with fresh ears, even our ‘child-like’ ears.
When were these stories most likely written? After all the Gospels were collected and edited.
They are like the Overture, the Introduction, the prologue to the whole ‘symphony’
When do we hear most birth stories? We hear them at funerals. When the whole arc of the life is understood, then the preciousness of the birth story completes the whole…
Incarnation is literally, the taking on of flesh. By whom? By Divinity. God is so in love with humanity and the Earth that God becomes one of us, light embodied, flesh, very much “God-among-us,” very much a lover and user of Earth and her many gifts to humans.
We are indebted to Matthew Fox for an undertanding of Anawim (pronounced ann-a-weem). Anawim is a Hebrew word from the Old Testament that describes the “poor ones” who remained faithful to God in times of difficulty.
These humble people became known as the anawim or the “faithful remnant.” These ‘poor ones’ are the outcasts, the bottom rung of the social ladder, the un-valued people…
The anawim are also the children. Then as now, children are often without a voice and are subject to adultism and the projections and projects of the adults whether their versions of societal institutions from education to economics to religion to politics. Children are often victimized by the agendas of the adults.
But in the Christmas story we are told that Divinity is not afraid of childhood but actually chooses to be a child and to be vulnerable and dependent as happens with children everywhere. Christmas challenges adultism in all its forms.
It awakens adults to their capacity for participating in the evil of endangering the young. It also shows the best way of dealing with children: Mother, Mary and Father, Joseph care for their young baby as every couple do, they give the child all he needs to grow and keep him as safe as they can- they make mistakes, misunderstand him and even lose him!
So, writes Fox…Christmas day is not so much a Birthday Party for the ‘baby Jesus’ in the each year as an exercise in nostalgia —so much as it is a Birthday Party for the Christ in all of us, the Buddha Nature in all of us, the Image of God in all of us yearning to Come Alive and Be Born finally, throwing off the shackles of history and fear and lack of self-worth to take on the dignity and the responsibility of being grown-ups; of being God-like; of being compassionate beings who are fully alive.
These archetypal stories do what all archetypes do: They wake us up.
In this context the “light of Christ” and the light of all of us is invited to shine not just one day a year but every day of every year