There is the old joke that the answer to any question asked in church must always be Jesus, even if it sounds like a squirrel; that was the joke. Imagine my amazement when I asked, at the Candlelight service, ‘Did the baby in the manger actually glow?’ to hear the congregation answer with utter conviction ‘Yes!’ when they should have said ‘No!’
I asked this because projected onto the wall behind me was the picture by Gerard van Honthorst called ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’ where Jesus is painted shining as if he was a ten thousand watt halogen light. Van Honthorst painted Jesus like this not because he shone so in the manger, but because this is what Jesus stood for; God’s amazing light in a world filled with darkness.
Thirty years later, or so, the friends of Jesus were equally amazed when Jesus standing on the prow of the boat they were in stilled the storm, with a single word, that threatened to kill them. In amazement they wondered ‘What kind of man is this?’ not because they were credulous fools, but because they were still alive.
‘What kind of man is this?’ is a question that must always be on our lips. We must ask it when we are troubled or disturbed when storms of evil envelop people or when storms of sickness or sorrow intrude upon our lives. Yet, we must ask it without allowing the glib answer or easy cliché to ease our troubled hearts.
Jesus rebuked his friends for their lack of faith and he does the same to us when we find refuge in the glib answer or easy cliché. Instead he dares us to ride the wild waves with him, even when he seems to be asleep, that we may discover more of whom our God is and what it means to trust in his love.
May we, in whatever this year beings, have the courage and the audacity to ask ‘What kind of man is this?’ not because we know the answer but because we want to know him better.
Revd. Andy Gore