I don’t live in a rectory, technically speaking I am not a rector, but for the sake of the story let us declare my flat “The Rectory”. So, imagine, if you will, Christmas Eve in The Rectory. I am alone, I tell you that not to make you feel sorry for me, it is simply the fact and marginally relevant to the story. Tomorrow, being Christmas Day, calls for preparation, the sermon is done, now to attend to my attire. Being a feast day, and a Sunday, I feel it calls for the collar. However, there is a problem. Just before I was ordained I bought three clergy shirts, from a church supplier I found in central Johannesburg. It is surprising to note how many such shops there are in central Johannesburg, but I digress. The shirts that I bought, were royal blue, light blue and grey. Over the last nine months all except the grey shirt have lost buttons. Feeling that it would not be appropriate to wear a grey shirt to celebrate the birth of our Lord, I decided to set about mending the light blue shirt. Of course, I would have preferred to wear the royal blue shirt for such a day, however, said shirt had lost four buttons and I possessed neither the buttons nor the patience to amend the situation, light blue it was. It is some time since I have sewn a button on a shirt and I am pleased to announce that I was successful, as you will see if you join us for Christmas Day. Despite my success, I must confess it was a difficult task. Initially, of course, I put this down to my useless bachelor ways (see alone above), but then I recalled that it was probably related to the fact that I have a mild disability. This makes fine motor movements for me very difficult, it is not hugely surprising that I struggle to sew on a button. As I say such a condition is mild, most the time I do not notice it, but sometimes I do and I am reminded that there are some things I can’t do.
Unrelated, although I will shortly relate it, I spent most the rest of the morning reading: ‘The History of New Thought’. ‘New Thought’ is something that you probably haven’t consciously come across, but it is the movement that laid much of the groundwork for the prosperity gospel. New thought suggests that there is no limit to what we can do, the only limit is what we impose on ourselves by our thoughts. If we change our thinking, we can change our ability, our health or situation. Elements of New Thought would suggest, my physical disability is really a thought problem that can be solved by a change of thinking. There is much wrong with such an approach. One problem is that it steals Christmas!
Christmas is a reminder that there are things we cannot do. When the angel spoke to to Joseph concerning the baby who was to be born he said:
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Luke 1:21)
The incarnation of Jesus had to happen because there are things we cannot do. These are not small things, in fact despite all our capabilities we cannot do the most crucial things, we cannot deal with the problem between ourselves and God. Ephesian 2:1 declares that before Christ we were all ‘dead in our transgressions and sins’. Sin leave us dead, incapable of doing anything, and ‘objects of wrath’.
So far in my book I have only got up to around 1920, so all those I have come across are dead (literally), a change of thinking didn’t help them. The Christian gospel does not say we must change our thinking, that the solution is within us, how could it be, we are dead, we need help from outside, someone other than us. We need someone called Jesus to save us from our sins. And the wonder of that first Christmas is that that help came, he was not just called Jesus but Immanuel, God with us.
If you’re wondering how to sew on a button here’s how: