A map to find the way?
Why do bad things always happen at Christmas? It cannot have escaped people’s eyes that there was a cruel irony to the dainty gold lettering spelling out ‘Merry Christmas’ on the window of the Lindt Café in downtown Sydney as seen through the long focus lens last Monday. Then there was the photo of a little boy in India apparently lighting a Christmas candle seen on news websites last Friday. On closer inspection there were tears glistening on his cheeks as he lit a candle to remember the schoolchildren of Peshawar. Bad things happen at Christmas. Of course, sometimes Christmas is a momentary break in all that badness and madness – like the guns on the Western Front famously falling silent on Christmas Eve 1914. The trouble with that story is that it all started up again 24 hours later. Are we to believe that Christmas is no more than a temporary enchantment, lasting no longer than a child’s snowman coming to life for one night only in a fairy story?
I wanted to find a way to tell the longer story of Christmas as an age-old plan which would be memorable and not too heavy. That is how the ‘tube map’ below was born. Each station was ‘revealed’ from bottom left, zig-zagging upwards. Explanations are below the picture. Everyone of the 200+ people who heard the talk took home a credit card sized version of the map with Matthew 1 v.21 on the back ‘Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’.
Burnt Oak – long ago in a field somewhere off the Edgware Road, there was a tree which burnt down. The field has gone and the tree has gone, but the name remains. The story of Christmas starts LONG ago, where newly made human beings stood, ashamed, in the shadow of a tree where they had broken the only rule they had been given. A new world without disease or corruption of any kind was spoilt before it had hardly begun.
Bank – right then, from that very moment onwards, God was building up a bank of promises that he would put it right. They came in all shapes & sizes through all different voices – prophets….poets and visionaries of every kind. They were passed on from the mouths of one generation to ears of next – the bank of promises did not run dry.
Angel – at last an angel came, to a poor girl with a good heart to tell her the time was right and that the bank of promises was open for business.
Marylebone – although the spelling is wonky, the message is true. This girl, with all her fear & inadequacy – was good. (Literally ‘Mary-the-good ) She was not perfect. She was not more than a woman – but she was a good woman who would do what God asked of her.
Mile End – thus began a journey over many many miles to the place where the child would be born. The Mile End on the London Underground was so named because it was one mile from Aldgate. The journey was much further than a mere mile for Mary and Joseph.
Old Street – when they got there, the old streets of Joseph’s home town were an inhospitable place. They were bumped from pillar to post, and not a room was to be found. So this special child would enter the world in a shed on the back of a pub.
Grange Hill – not the Secondary School of Tucker fame, nor even a hill with a name – just a hill somewhere out of sight where people did a job no-one else wanted to do.
Shepherd’s Bush – originally a stopping off point on the way to Smithfield market, maybe with a hawthorn bush pruned in such a way as to provide shelter for shepherds There was none for the shepherd’s in our story, though. Out in all weathers, despised by many, the lowest of the low…these were the last people ever to hear about anything important. They could not have been more surprised when…
Angel – showed up again, and told them that God’s age-old plan to put things right was happening right here, right now & he wanted them to know about it.
King’s Cross – far away, somewhere in modern Iraq, kings were setting out for a journey they barely understood, crossing the desert to see a king whose birth would change the world for ever. It was more than a whim, but less than a plan – this was something which just HAD to be seen.
Barons Court – originally named to attract people to the area and to compete with Earls Court by sounding equally upmarket. Our three kings headed straight for the most logical place to find a king – the Royal Court. He was not there, and after another diversion they found him in the Old Streets of Bethlehem – and knelt to worship him.
Somewhere on the edge of Lewisham there used to be a coaching inn called the “Golden Cross”…some time in 17th Century, it changed its name to New Cross
New Cross is place where all this was leading
Like every child – Christ would grow up to carry many expectations on his shoulders. The time would come when he would carry expectations of ENTIRE world on them. On a cross, would do something about a problem which had been there since dawn of time. With ONE spectacular act of selflessness this miracle-child would erase a blot which had been on the copy-book of humanity since beginning of it all.
The burnt oak would be forgotten; the bank of promises cashed in. All the kings and shepherds and everyone in between would have a hope like never before.
The reason you have a tube map (whether paper or app)is so that you can GET to where you need to be. Hopefully this map will help you find your way this Christmas.
Please feel free to use this if helpful.