Surrounded by presents and tinsel, peaceful nativity scenes and Christmas goodwill, it is easy to forget the full reality of the Christmas event.
Today’s feast of the Holy Innocents remind us of the most significant trial this new family faced. As the madman Herod used some of his last breaths to overcome the rumoured ‘new King of the Jews’ at his birth, Joseph and Mary fled to the safety of Egypt.
Most reflections for this feast will helpfully focus on the literal reason for the feast – the vulnerability of children in the face of adult fear and corruption.
One of Pope Francis’ books, A Stranger and You Welcomed Me: A Call to Mercy and Solidarity with Migrants and Refugees features a work of art by iconographer Kelly Latimore on the cover.
This work bridges the distance between Joseph, Mary and Jesus making the treacherous journey to safety in Egypt, and the many homeless travellers today. I think of many who have arrived in Aotearoa in recent years seeking freedom and work, and the often shy response, even resistance they may experience from neighbours and workmates.
Latimore’s work moves me as I notice vulnerability not only in the small child but also the new parents Joseph and Mary.
Healthy people are aware of their vulnerability.
And I’m reminded that it doesn’t take too much insight to notice vulnerability in every person, perhaps especially those who at first glance seem most in-control and successful.
Yes, the poor and the vulnerable have a special place in the heart of Jesus. And this also means that my own vulnerability, my own poverty, my neediness, are the stable in which God is eager to become incarnate in and for me.
Of course we spend much of our time and energy resisting our weakness and need, but perhaps for a few hours today we could look at ourselves with the gaze of Jesus, the same tender vision we easily use when we meet the vulnerability of a child.