Vulnerability is the theme that runs through the PCI Moderator’s Christmas Message 2022. The Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick writes,
“Approaching the Ukrainian border from Hungary in October was quite stressful, especially when your passport is taken and you are left in a kind of no-man’s land. Vulnerability is what you feel.
That same feeling happened at various times – when the air raid siren went off, or you were stopped at a checkpoint – occasions that certainly take you out of our comfort zone. At the time there was a sense of inner peace, as I knew that my life was in the hands of the kindest and most caring Heavenly Father. As long as I remember this, all is well and I’m happy to place myself in such situations for the good of others when I consider it to be His will.
However, the most vulnerable people are those who have little power to change anything, like the adults and children I met in Transcarpathia, western Ukraine. In such situations, as I experienced, there is a real feeling of helplessness and even anger, especially at those faceless people who from some remote command centre plotted the trajectory of the missiles that landed elsewhere in the country, triggering the sirens that sent us to the shelter.
For different reasons, many people on this island will have been feeling vulnerable this year, especially due to the cost of living crisis. It was into the place of vulnerability that Jesus came that first Christmas. He came as a child, born to an oppressed people and exposed to the brutality of King Herod, causing His family to flee for their lives becoming refugees in Egypt. Throughout His life, Jesus often placed himself in such vulnerable situations. One enabling reason was the sense of complete confidence in His Father, embracing God’s will even when it meant the ultimate in vulnerability – the Crucifixion – exposing Himself to death on the Cross and the perfect justice and judgment for our sin.
In so doing Jesus achieved so much. He was able to win for anyone who will humbly trust Him, complete forgiveness. He truly did achieve what Isaiah declared about him “…to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” (Isaiah 61:1) This means he understands the vulnerable and will fight for “the widow and orphan” (James 1:27). Becoming vulnerable, Jesus wins for us the capacity to embrace vulnerability too, stepping out and opening up our lives.
If we want to discover real love, we have to be vulnerable. If we try to achieve a meaningful peace with one or many, we have to become vulnerable. If we really want to grow in any area of our lives, at Christmas or at any time, we have to become open-handed and open-hearted. We should have the courage to be vulnerable and rediscover the Covid kindness that was so evident in the early days of the pandemic.
Because of all that Jesus has won for us, we can put ourselves out there. Unless and until we are willing to become vulnerable to God, we close off every possibility of knowing Him. Past hurts and disappointments can make us suspicious of his love and grace. In my earlier life I experienced just this very thing. Somehow, that did not prevent God from persisting to draw me out, to discover what Mr Beaver found in CS Lewis’ classic, ‘The Lion Witch and Wardrobe.’
Asking about Aslan, the great lion – Lewis’ powerful metaphor for Christ – the children are told, “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King…’ This is the way to experience that life need not always be winter and never Christmas.
Rt Rev Dr John Kirkpatrick
Presbyterian Church in Ireland