From Jill @Cheshunt Free Church
When I started out as an early years inspector, one of the checks I needed to make was to determine whether children had sufficient opportunities to experience ‘awe and wonder’ in their learning. I was reminded of this at a recent lay preachers’ conference, when we were encouraged to enable people in our churches to experience the awe and wonder of knowing God, through word and/or image. Both are important. You might look with awe at the earliest written Gospels, immaculately decorated on each page with wonderful imagery illustrating the words. You might listen in wonder to an exposition of a well-known Bible story, hearing details you had previously missed, helping you to create your own images. In learning, the words enhance the images and the images enhance the words.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians (2.10), describes God as an artist. We can see God’s artistry in the created world, which is beautiful and diverse, but also in the incarnation – the coming of Christ into the world – when God created a link between the human and the divine. Artists of faith have produced numerous pictures of the event, including a wonderful diversity of ‘Madonnas’. The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth hosts a collection of Madonnas created by artists all over the world, each showing the characteristics of their particular culture. Artists are inspired by their own cultural and faith traditions. They help us to see Christ in different contexts and also to recognise that Christ is universal – he came to all peoples everywhere.
At Christmas we can experience the awe and wonder of worship in fellowship with Christians all around the world. We need not feel restricted to our own ‘little patch’. In churches everywhere, people will hear the same story and be exposed to the same familiar images of the nativity, centring around a starlit stable in Bethlehem. However, the Indian artist Sahi reflects his cultural tradition in a portrayal of Christ that is a little different. He represents Christ as a dancer, one who is dancing his way through creation, redeeming all peoples to God - Christ of the cosmos. Christ dances his way through incarnation, through death and resurrection, inviting all people to join in the dance.
We have a choice – either we can sit back in our ‘little patch’ and watch the dance, or we can get out there and join in the dance, experiencing the awe and wonder of belonging to a worldwide body of Christ. In a New Year of new beginnings I pray that we might be confident enough to refrain from watching Christ dance and get up and join in!
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he