Have you ever experienced claustrophobia? Panic rising, shortness of breath, imagination running wild, loss of control, frantic inner turmoil exploding to escape? I remember exploring a cave and small tunnel with a group of friends. We laughed as we filed into the small space, inching forward, stopping to wait for others to maneuver deeper into the mountain. Suddenly I felt the weight of the rock above, people on either side hemming me in. Nowhere to go. It took everything I had to settle my rising panic and calm my spirit, wild-eyed twitching.
Claustrophobia is mostly in the mind, but it’s real, and frightening. The mere thought of confinement, or the prospect of ‘no escape’, inhibits many from embarking on all manner of potentially exciting things: flying, travelling on trains underground, crowds, and dentist chairs. Perhaps other situations to awkward to admit.
This Covid lockdown has many of us restricted and confined in ways we never imagined a year ago. As we approach Christmas there will be many empty chairs around the table, gifts given and received in sterile isolation, and for many, too much time to think, to ponder, to reflect, to wonder……
Perspective is everything.
How do we calm our heart and quiet our spirit when fear chokes and imagination rummages through the dark side?
Slow down, it’s all lies. There’s no danger in the tunnel, lockdown won’t be forever, this too will pass. Slow down, breath deep, look again. The people hemming me in share the confined space, we’re in this together as friends. Slow down, breath deep, we can do this, and be brave. Courage is facing down the fear that bullies and brags.; much noise, little substance. Stare (or better still, glare) into it’s hollow eyes and watch it shrivel into nothing much. Others have gone before and triumphed, so can we.
Imagine Jesus contemplating joining us in life on earth. The ultimate downsizing. Squeezing the vastness of eternity into human form, and remaining there, with no escape or respite. Locked down for thirty three years! Why on earth?
There’s a plague upon the earth that’s infected every tribe and nation. There’s a virus embedded deep in the blood, in the heart, in the minds of all our children. No vaccine’s available, or in the pipeline, capable of combatting this curse that blinds eyes, deafens ears, twists minds, and inflates egos. There are hints that’s something’s wrong but for the most part, no idea.
God looks down. What’s got into the children? They’re like wild things, easily spooked, and quick to bolt. So much fear, generations of abuse, a long history of fabrication, distortion and lies. We need to act.
Rescue will be undercover, non-threatening, gentle like a seed growing from the dirt. Look like them, in many ways, though not all.
Jesus on earth, locked down in the smallest of spaces. Ever so quietly becoming… a holy sperm in a human womb, germinating, growing, formed, squeezed and pushed. Born, wet, helpless, powerless, dependent, fully human. No sight or sound from heaven here.
Jesus in lockdown lived with his parents, initially as a refugee in Egypt. He had no idea that his newborn life was in danger. But they did. They fled to safety. Joseph worked on construction sites to pay the bills, Mary did her best to make a home in a foreign land. Neither of them anticipated this in their ten-year plan when they embarked, engaged, together. There was some tension for sure, they couldn’t wait to return home. It took more than a few years before they gazed down from the hills near Nazareth over the Sea of Galilee and the Capernaum coastline.
Jesus in lockdown lived an ordinary, very humble life in Nazareth. Annual treks up to the temple in Jerusalem on foot. Working with his father as soon as he was able, hanging out with brothers, sisters, and friends. What an extraordinarily ordinary life for someone from an entirely different realm!
Mercifully, most of that awareness remained at the door when he entered lockdown. Couldn’t cram all its vastness into finite human form. Everything else was stripped away, until the Jesus in lockdown was reduced to being ‘just like us – in every way.’ Except without the infection, the virus, the plague. He had ears to hear and eyes to see, what we had lost. He squeezed in to show and tell, to remind and to restore, to renew and redeem.
Lockdown was no restriction. And yet it was. Jesus among humanity is God wearing a mask. For our protection, not his infection. God unmasked among us would kill us by his mere presence. The clean among the unclean. Jesus among us, in lockdown, for our benefit, for our encouragement, leading the way out of our, greater than Covid, lockdown.
As Jesus matured into manhood, he blossomed. Until at last came the great reveal! He revealed freedom in the midst of Roman occupation. Freedom under pharisaical religion. Freedom with meagre resources. Freedom when restricted to the smallest geographical region. His great reveal was that physical lockdown has no bearing on the spirit. A mustard seed of faith in the hands of his Father released sandwiches for the multitude, healing of disease, power to forgive, love for the enemy. It released wisdom to comprehend, eyes like laser beams to see through the darkness, and ears to hear the voice of his Father.
When finally the lockdown culminated in the injustice and brutality of the Cross there was no let up. On the third day the lock was picked, death defeated, and the doorway to heaven thrown open wide.
For those who follow in Jesus’ slipstream this Covid Christmas: Be free, be bold, be defiant, be expectant, be thankful, be encouraged, be at peace, be-lieve.