by The Most Reverend Roger Herft AM, Archbishop of Perth
at the St John of God Retreat Centre, Safety Bay
Saturday 11 October 2014
It is a particular honour to be invited to launch this Advent meditation, Jesus the Child We Worship, complied prayerfully, experientially and with scholarly devotion by The Reverend Ted Witham.
It is indeed providential that on the day we launch this Advent series the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to two individuals who have made the life of children their life’s work.
Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who while travelling to school in a bus in rural Pakistan defying a Taliban order was shot in the head. Close to death she survived. Her courageous young life is devoted to the education of children, particularly girls.
Kailash Satyarthi, the peaceful protester in India, has stood out against the exploitation of children in slave labour, child prostitution, child marriage and the sexual, economic and social violence against children.
A Muslim and a Hindu, Pakistani and Indian, worlds apart even though they are neighbours. United – brought together in the quest for peace, for the wellbeing of children around the world. It is not surprising that Ted has a section on the courage of Malala.
Ted Witham’s meditations recognise what Rowan Williams observes: “The cry to God as father in the New Testament is not a calm acknowledgement of a universal truth about God’s abstract ‘fatherhood’; it is the child’s cry out of a nightmare”.
Ted invites us through the readings in Advent to discover the wounded child in each of us. The wounds, the hurt, the losses, the grief that if unresolved cause us as adolescents and adults to wound others.
Ted invites us to enter into the wounded lives of children in our world through the Scriptures.
Advent is usually associated with the four last things – heaven, hell, death and the Last Judgement. The truth of our mortality.
Ted reminds us that the Season of Advent, the beginning of the church’s year, is the God who comes from the future reshaping our past, renewing our present. Focus on ‘natality’ – new beginnings.
This birthing is described by Meister Eckhart: “In this birth we will discover all blessing, but neglect this birth and you neglect all blessing. Tend only to this birth in you and you will find, all goodness, consolation, all delight, all being and all truth.”
The glory of the Child of Bethlehem is the power of wonder, of imagination, of repentance.
Ted calls us to become like children, to enter into the excitement of drawing, of crayons and clay, of playfulness and pantomime, of dressing up and dressing down – the deductive and the inductive form of learning.
Some years ago at the midnight service at St George’s Cathedral as the procession approached the Sanctuary – incense billowing, Holy water ready to be sprinkled, the words for the blessing of the crib printed to be pronounced – it was discovered that the vergers had forgotten to put the crib into place. The place set aside under the altar was empty. One deacon whispered “Bless it Archbishop, no-one will notice that the baby is missing.” “Yes,” whispered the other, “it does not matter if the child is missing.”
One thing is sure, Ted Witham’s Advent meditations remind us that we miss the child to our peril. Come let us take the journey to worship Jesus the child.
Photos: Courtesy The Rev’d Sally Buckley tssf