J is for Jesus – Bono

At this time of year some people are reminded of the poetic as well as the historic truth that is the birth of Jesus. The Christmas story has a crazy good plot with an even crazier premise – the idea goes, if there is a force of love and logic behind the universe, then how amazing would it be if that incomprehensible power chose to express itself as a child born in shit and straw poverty.

Who could conceive of such a story? If you believe it was the protagonist, as I do, then we should try to be really respectful of people who think the whole thing is a bit nutty or worse… Religious people are the best and worst of us…handle us with scepticism…

Strangely, maybe, some of the most rational thinkers see some kind of cosmic sense in all this… Francis Collins, who led the human genome project, is an obvious one… the language of science and faith are not necessarily at odds….

Earlier this year the Hewsons got to see the view that John had as he wrote the Book of Revelation in a cave on the Greek island of Patmos. I can’t make head nor tail of that book but I love the idea that he was taken by a vision… a poetic rhapsody of man describing what looks like a nuclear firestorm ending the world.

William Blake was similarly seized by visions which he tried to write or draw. We stole the title “Songs of Innocence/Songs of Experience” from Blake. You can’t approach the subject of God without metaphor… literalism like legalism is an attempt to shrink God to recreate him in our own image.

Almost as glorious as that cave is the Matisse Chapel in Vence, France, which we visited this year with a friend on her birthday. The birthday girl couldn’t get over the fact that Matisse designed not only the stained glass but the priests’ vestments which can only be described as, eh, 70s Funkadelic. The chapel opened in 1951.

But back to the Christmas story that still brings me to my knees – which is a good place for me lest I harm myself or others. Christmas is not a time for me to overthink about this child, so vulnerable, who would grow so strong… to teach us all how vulnerability is the route to strength and, by example, show us how to love and serve.

To me this is not a fairy tale but a challenge. I preach what I need to hear…

LITTLE BOOK OF A BIG YEAR: Bono’s A to Z of 2014

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