‘What if we saw ourselves first and foremost as natals (those who are born) rather than mortals (those who die)?’ asked Hannah Arendt.
In Advent, Christians think of the coming of Christ as a baby and the future coming of the kingdom. Giles Fraser suggests, inspired by Hannah Arendt, we ask, ‘What might it mean if we focussed on Christ coming as a baby being the pivotal act for our salvation?’
If we focus on death as defining, we focus on that which draws us within ourselves. If birth, we focus on that which brings us into community. Natality, being born, is located in the physical, the right here right now, and being with other people. Natality gives us greater hope for this life rather than the hereafter which has often been the emphasis when Christians focus on Christ’s death leading to life.
That sounds helpful, but can we focus on Christmas and babies without sentimentalising ‘baby Jesus in the manger’ so much that we forget the good news of the kingdom is peace and justice for all? When commenting on ‘Child Theology’ Haddon Willmer and Keith J White say that we must not make a virtue of ‘littleness’. Rather we need to learn from the wholehearted way that a child is engaged in the venture of life. So, as we imagine the baby Jesus wholeheartedly engaging in the venture of life – feeding – crying – sleeping amongst his family, the animals, shepherds, angels and wise men – so we can be encouraged to see ourselves participating in the coming of the kingdom.
At ‘Mary & Martha Meet’ we explored the effect of this perspective on our engagement in the city. As we come to the city centre, often with our children, we can view it not as simply a place to shop or a place to pass through on the way to elsewhere but as a place for connection. If, childlike, we live in the moment, there are opportunities for human contact and for recognising the humanity of the many people we see. We can make chances for an appropriate comment or smile. It reminds us not to be too grown up and busy, so that we see the city as a place for encounter and simple human connections.