If you could only have seen what was inside my head, rather than how it turned out, I’m sure you would have been impressed. (Or maybe not.)
My friend, Corinne, had the fantastic idea to turn the shop windows in our town into a walkable advent calendar this year. Each participating shop was given a Christmas carol and a date for their display to appear and volunteers offered to help to make them.
Who wouldn’t want to have a go at a window display? I was given ‘York Wealth Management’ and ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and a few weeks to think about it. Straight away, some words in the first verse seemed to jump out at me: ‘born the king of angels’.
I know I’m not the only person who has been making the connection this Christmas between Jesus’ refugee family in first century and those who have been forced to leave their homes in the current refugee crisis. I thought it would be good if this window showed the glory of God but also the humility and desperation of the human family that welcomed him. That phrase, ‘born the king of angels’, has both glory and earthiness in it, I think.
Maybe it’s fitting, that the display didn’t turn out as neatly as I thought. Although, I had some excellent help from the boys and from our 15 year old friend, Laura, half of the angels have slipped, the tent broke and we weren’t able to hang our backdrop. I’m not absolutely sure that passers-by will know that we intended to show a refugee tent surrounded by God’s glory, but at least that’s what we meant to do. Even if know one else does, when we look at it, we will wonder about this king.
This sonnet (the title means King of Nations) by Malcolm Guite, expresses infinitely more powerfully the mystery of the one born the king of angels:
O Rex Gentium
O King of our desire whom we despise,
King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one:
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within the child within the clay
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.