Saturday, 17 December 2016

Shattered dreams... and a scandalous God.

"Science is imagination. In a straitjacket".   
Richard Feynman.

Ah, yes - Monsters and Spaceships.

When I was about six, I recall my Father taking me to the 'dinosaur lake' in Crystal Palace.
It was an exciting moment, because I'd recently seen the movie, the Valley of Gwangi, on TV (what has to be an extraordinary crossover - a western with a T. Rex!), and couldn't wait to see such beasts up close. It was indeed a magical moment, as the brightly coloured stone sculptures appeared to be eyeing me as they twisted around the trees and shrubs - somehow the stillness of the nearby water added to the awe of the moment. I, of course, wondered, at how such creatures had once roamed the land, and it was a thought that would fascinate me for a few years until I reached around the age of eight or nine. Saturday mornings then became transformed by the work of Gerry Anderson (Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds), quickly followed by the astonishing ability to watch real life adventure in space as the Apollo missions were explained on our TV sets by the likes of James Burke and Patrick Moore. By the time I'd reached twelve, we'd been to the moon a couple of times and escaped the disaster of Apollo 13, and then came Star Trek. My imagination soared as I discovered and began to delight in the works of the golden age of Science Fiction.

It was all feeding my rich imagination, but it wasn't touching my deeper questions.
Hopeful monsters might be fun, but in spite of all the visual wizardry of film and TV, they didn't give me much meaning inside. I'd lived my childhood through a time of big questions (including 'will we be here tomorrow? due to a little thing called the cold war!), and all the science alongside all the fantasy fun I was hearing and enjoying really wasn't getting me anywhere.

That's because all of it amounts to skimming stones across the surface of life and missing the deep(er) waters.

We think that religion is about something outlandish - connecting us to the remote 'god' who may (if we're good enough) take us away to some idyllic nirvana when we die. The real shock is that time and space are about something far more tangible than our small thoughts and weak powers of comprehension.

I was lucky enough to see 'A New Hope' (the first Star Wars movie) at the Dominion in Tottenham Court Road, before it ended its days as a cinema, in 1977. In those days, we had the new joys of surround-sound, and I can recall that moment when I first saw that imperial ship tare across the screen, breathing deadly fire, to the rapturous yet menacing score of John Williams, forever confirming my love for movies that deserved to be on the big screen.

What we have lost sight of today is that the truth about what's going on is far greater and deeper than something that striking.

How can I be so sure?
Because of Christmas.

Not the tinsel and the twee. Think for a moment about how often the most popular songs at christmas are the ones which touch on something melancholic and honest about us and our often painful lives - that's telling about where we know the 'message' of the season should be taking us, but we're often reluctant to really look the at the bare tidings of advent.

Let's be bold.

There is a mother, nursing a baby. She's not even married yet, and the delivery has just happened in squalor as this family are currently homeless.
There's our world, and yet, it's in these sadly very all to well known conditions that God has come, right down into being one of us, as a baby, needing a mum - to live and die to re-invest all of life with the value and significance that God wants it to have - life defined by a love that gives all.

We all have our dreams, but monsters and space ships still leave the soul needing much more. We need to see, to know the love that will hold us in all our pain, all our death, and bring us and the world into what's good... forever.

That's what Christmas is all about, about the true and great reality breaking in to our disconnection and self-absorption with the news that a saviour is here, and life and history can never be the same again because of that. It's truly wonderful.

Here, then, is an opportunity. This season, just stop a while and listen to the words of the better carols or the Christmas Eve sermon about  Jesus Christ, and think about the one who has come to make you whole.

This is a faithful saying, notes Paul, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

That means there's something to really come and know that will give us a much greater hope than all the dreams that still leave us empty and alone.

Happy Christmas!

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