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Reflecting on our relationship with God

TAKING part in Bethlehem Live, our ecumenical reflection on the first Christmas has inspired some thoughts in me.

The idea behind Bethlehem Live is that a person might be introduced to an environment that, to some extent, reflects that of Bethlehem at the time of the birth of Jesus.

It certainly isn't 100 per cent accurate, but like the props in a play, it helps us imagine what it might have been like.

It reminds me of a tradition that the modern nativity scene that so many of us are familiar with, the image of Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus, surrounded by wise men, shepherds and angels was instituted by St Francis in around 1223.

This tradition may not be accurate, but it does represent an important movement in the history of our thinking about God.

As most people could not read, prior to the nativity constructed by St Francis, they would have imagined Jesus being born in luxurious surroundings, like they would have imagined any other king being born.

As human beings we have a desire to represent God in an elevated way, you might even think of the crucifixion scenes in which we depict Christ as being elevated high above the crowds, despite historians assuring us that this image is inaccurate.

My thoughts then are revolving around this: our desire is often to push God away, to elevate God so far above us, that God becomes irrelevant to our daily lives.

God on the other hand is constantly acting to undermine that human inclination, to be flattening the structures, so that we know that God is with us and beside us, in the midst of our daily lives.