Christmas always reminds me of our time in Belgium. A time of year when we sang at schools, put together Christmas choirs and performed for (grand)parents. Class after class we taught the young students our songs, preferably with movements and a cool rap. During those weeks you would see whole groups of children standing together in groups on the square during the break, singing and making gestures. And after quite a few rehearsals, the big and sparkling performances finally came. What a time!
Guitar and accordion
Yet the best moment was yet to come. The day after the Christmas performance at school, we walked with the choir through the streets of the village to the outdated retirement home. We also went there to sing. First we gave a small performance in a kind of chapel for the elderly, who were able to walk. Then we formed a long procession with me leading the way with the guitar and Karin, with the accordion, closing the line at the end. ‘Silent Night’ echoed throughout the corridors and a few children entered at each room door. They continued to sing for a while at the edge of the bed.
A lump in my throat
While the smell of urine sometimes became stronger and we only encountered more drooling and emaciated people, more and more children were affected by what they saw. I could hardly play the guitar anymore because of the enormous lump in my throat. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Singing was no longer possible. And what happened? It was precisely there, in all its simplicity, that ‘the light’ broke through in their otherwise empty gaze for these vulnerable people. A smile appeared on the expressionless faces. The heavens opened a little. The angels sang along.
Gratitude meter for success
What could be more beautiful? The applause of a massive audience or the tears of a demented woman? It will cost you quite a bit to go for that one, because the world values that big applause above all. Masses are impressive and a measure of success. Glamor is often rewarded and having a career takes you further in life, they say. It may also take you further away from God.
God also did not choose the big stage when He sent His Son. Instead of Jerusalem with Herod’s impressive palace, God’s plan was fulfilled through a stable in the insignificant village of Bethlehem. The decor was not filled with bright spotlights or flashing lights, but only with a lonely star that continued to shine quietly. Later it also turns out that jumping from the temple in front of a large audience is a devilish temptation. God’s plan apparently reveals itself to the fullest in simplicity and in places of brokenness.
An everyday pack animal
The promise the angel spoke about Jesus’ birth was royal. “He will become a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will reign over the people of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). Yet Mary traveled to Bethlehem on an everyday beast of burden. No Rolls, Bentley or Jaguar, but a simple donkey. Thus the King’s Son was transported to his birthplace.
Many years later, Jesus is welcomed grandly in Jerusalem. Although people stand along the road shouting and shouting, He again chooses a donkey. The masses may go for the spectacle, but the breakthrough of the Kingdom of God is carried by lowly donkeys.
Being an ass
Would you like to go for that one this Christmas? Do you want to be a donkey (in the eyes of men) and a carrier of the Most High at the same time? Take Jesus to the lonely and carry the King’s Son to the widows and orphans. Especially in these special times and discover that the heavens open there. This is how people see the true light of Christmas: Jesus is King and there is no end to his kingship!