Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY VERSUS THE THREE KINGS

The weather is asserting its power these last days of December 2013 – in England at least. We have had several days of high winds and heavy rain, interspersed with a few days of brilliant sun. It covers the Christmas period, when Christians are meant to assert their belief in an intelligent and all-powerful God who controls everything, including rain and sun and storms, etc. The current weather invites the question “What have we done to deserve this?”

What makes people take notice is something unexpected. Primitive man must have got used to the normal pattern of seasonal change and accepted summer and winter as normal. But how did he react when  something extreme and abnormal arrived? He did not have weather forecasters explaining that masses of hot air and cold air meeting over North America caused a succession of storms to rush across the Atlantic. He looked for a cause. He knew that some things happened in his world because he himself made them happen. Digging a trench outside his cave, for instance, caused water to flow down the hill instead of onto his bed. So it was quite natural to assume that extreme weather had been organised by some intelligent being. God fitted that description nicely. And just as man had a reason for digging the trench outside his cave, so God must have had a reason for manipulating the weather. And since the bad weather was harmful to man, God must have sent it as punishment. 

The really nasty events were infrequent. The underlying pattern was constant. Things died off in the winter and were reborn in the spring and matured to harvest in the summer. Some years were better than others, but the cycle repeated again and again and again. So what was real and what was interference? Perhaps nature was the true, powerful force and God was allowed to mess it around at unknown intervals for unknown reasons. Or perhaps God was in charge of the whole thing and decreed both the constant cycle and the unpredictable extremes. So did you worship nature and put up with God’s meddling or did you worship God and intercede with him to play down the extremes? Who was really in charge? If you want to make things better, what do you do to influence Him or Her or It?

At a carol service I greatly enjoy both  “We Three Kings of Orient Are” and “The Holly and the Ivy”. The latter edges out the three kings because I feel more secure and comfortable with it. I know for sure that “the rising of the sun and the running of the deer” are going to happen. They are real. The three kings are a story – a great story and a great song but not real in the same way as the holly and the ivy and the sun and the deer. Am I a pagan because I see this world as more real than a postulated (and extremely vague) after-life? Something I do believe about Christianity is that the doctrine of forgiveness allows humans to go on trying despite their inevitable failures. They are not obliged to give up, despite the foul things they so often do. If this message is divinely inspired then I am a Christian.

 

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