The funeral notice for one Jack Webber, described as, “charmer, clock-collector, wit and Royal Navy Commander,” requested that to commemorate Jack, “please give a bunch of flowers to a complete stranger and tell them that they’re absolutely marvellous.”
The writer, Martin Wroe decided to try to do just that. After mixed results, he concluded that this was a good season to try, because we remember that in the Hebrew Scriptures, humankind is described as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And marvellous. He omitted the Bible’s additional words: “in the image of God.”
Humans have struggled for centuries to understand what this really means. One way is to look at the rich mosaic of human diversity: the image of the divine creator takes all of humankind to reproduce.
Another way is to look into the manger in Bethlehem. There we see both the ultimate in human helplessness and vulnerability and the ultimate in human potential – which is a marvel. Whoever we are, from the most visibly talented to the most seemingly ordinary, we all begin life as helpless, vulnerable babies.
So the image of God is in all of us and in a single, helpless baby. The two are not irreconcilable. The child in the manger grew into the adult Jesus, who shows just what humans can become – a signpost to what it can mean to be human. Or, the equivalent of God’s bunch of flowers presented to a struggling human population, throughout the ages, to say, “You’re absolutely marvellous.” The incarnation is God’s vote of confidence in humanity.
This means that we are all absolutely marvellous: which is encouraging, flattering – and challenging. Because we have to live up to that description. Happy – marvellous – Christmas to all!
Postscript: unable to give a bunch of flowers to every – marvellous! – member of the Christmas congregation, I gave a collective bouquet, with a flower to each and everyone. This was to remind each one that they are marvellous, but also that they are part of a marvellous bunch!