In his Christmas message for Bailiwick Express this year, the Dean takes us on a journey from the racetracks of Formula 1 right back to a stable in Bethlehem...
The Very Reverend Mike Keirle started by reflecting on his childhood...
I grew up immersed in the air industry. My father worked on the Handley Page Victor V-Bomber in Hertfordshire and we lived near the aerodrome where they were made and from which they flew.
As a young boy, I loved nothing more than going to the end of the runway and watching them take off. As the pilots moved tiny throttle levers in the cockpit, the noise and the power was visceral and, if you climbed one particular tree (and tied yourself in with some rope), you would have the ride of your life as the thrust from the engines made it sway madly.
Pictured: "My father worked on the Handley Page Victor V-Bomber in Hertfordshire and we lived near the aerodrome where they were made and from which they flew..."
For a seven year old, that was the closest I came to flying.
That sort of power has always held a fascination for me and is probably what has led to one of the other loves of my life: Formula One.
If you have ever been near a F1 car, you will know that the power of the engine (not to mention the noise in the pre-hybrid era) is really intimidating.
The climax of this year’s world championship, where two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, were on the same points going into the last race, was really exciting. One driver was trying to complete a record eight titles and another trying to achieve his first. In the end, it was a question of power and its application, through the tiny movement of a foot on an accelerator, that changed the life of Max Verstappen.
In these last eighteen months of course, we have all learnt the lesson of how something so small can be so powerful, firstly in the Covid-19 virus and then, of course, in the vaccinations that followed.
It’s one thing having power in an engine or a vaccine but a wholly different matter when it comes to power being in human hands. It is more difficult to regulate for a start. There is no brake pedal or throttle on a politician or a dictator and we all know that power is easily abused.
As the famous saying goes, 'Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' That was written by a politician in correspondence with a Bishop!
Pictured: "... it was a question of power and its application, through the tiny movement of a foot on an accelerator, that changed the life of Max Verstappen."
Power features strongly in the events of the first Christmas.
The baby of Bethlehem was born into a world in which life was cheap and people subjugated, firstly by the Romans and then the King that they put in place to rule over the Jewish people – Herod.
He was not a man to trifle with, as the wise men found out and he was easily threatened by the birth of a baby. This world into which Jesus was born was therefore dominated by a military power that ordered every part of life and society and dealt brutally with those who challenged it.
But here’s the thing. The real action in the Christmas story is far removed from the corridors of power. God doesn't explode on an unsuspecting planet, turning up in a chariot driven into the heart of the political capital and then compel everybody to turn their eyes to the great event. Most people in Palestine have no idea what is going on. That is part of what makes the first Christmas so surprising (and subversive for that matter).
When God shows up, it is to a teenage girl that he comes, with outsiders – the 'great unwashed' shepherds and foreign travellers - who are first to have their eyes opened to the extraordinary mystery unfolding in a troublesome corner of the Roman Empire.
And what do they find? A baby who is utterly powerless and, hidden in the insignificance of it all, is the great truth that it is the small things that can be the most powerful of all.
Pictured: "The thing that never ceases to amaze me about the baby in the manger at Christmas is that he grew up and challenged all the power structures of the day (including the religious ones by the way!!) and invited people to think again: What if we were to be a people who were not driven by power but by service?"
We sense this when we attend a nativity play and see a girl dressed in blue sitting by a manger on a school stage; when we see ordinary people doing generous things to help the most marginalised of people; when someone is given shelter who is homeless and they are made to feel human and valued and that they matter.
It is the power of the small and the ordinary, of the absurdly generous and the thoughtful, of inclusiveness and the care for another. It doesn’t come from grand gestures only half meant or political decisions but a small act of random kindness from a heart that recognises that human beings need love. It is to this that Christmas calls us.
The thing that never ceases to amaze me about the baby in the manger at Christmas is that he grew up and challenged all the power structures of the day (including the religious ones by the way!!) and invited people to think again: What if we were to be a people who were not driven by power but by service?
What if, while being part of this world, we could learn to lay aside our need for status, entitlement and control and, instead, learn to love our neighbour as ourselves and put their interests before our own? What would the world look like if that became a reality?
Christmas is a celebration of God being down to earth and showing us that the world doesn’t have to be a place of predator and prey, power and prestige. He invites us to see the world differently and, most importantly, to live differently.
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