Most of us recall the nativity scene – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, the stable… But while this is the popular image of Western Christianity there is a different version of the nativity story that comes from Orthodox Christianity, in which Mary gives birth in a cave…
Whilst in the West, the birth of Christ is seen as an external miracle for which human beings are present in order to bear witness to it, in the Orthodox tradition the incarnation of Jesus is only possible because every aspect of creation gives something to make it happen. The heavens offer a star; the angels their song; the earth, a mountain; the mountain a cave; the wilderness its grass for the manger; the cattle their warming breath; and humanity offers Mary’s womb.
We – and all aspects of creation – need to participate for the miraculous to occur. And this can perhaps be a lesson for us in addressing climate change. So far many of us have tried the Western view of how the world can be saved. It is as if at Copenhagen COP we were awaiting some external force – international agencies, national governments – to produce a miracle. And they didn’t. We relied on others to make the world better and they haven’t.
But by each of us offering what we can, we can make the miraculous happen. By doing everyday things as well as making major new commitments, we can transform the world. The Orthodox Christmas story tells us that we are the ones who, in partnership with others, can change the world. Heaven lies within us – but only when we act side by side with others, in whom we can also see that glimpse of Heaven on earth.”
By Martin Palmer, head of ARC. Read the full version on Guardian Online.