Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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15

Dec

2019

Decoding nativity scenes

Author: Jim Taylor

 don’t see many Christmas cards these days. Between Facebook and email, religious cards with traditional nativity scenes have become less popular. 

            But the scenes themselves haven’t changed much. A mother and child. Sometimes with a father, sometimes not. Sometimes with animals and a stable, sometimes not. Sometimes with shepherds; sometimes with visiting Magi. 

            And the child is always holy. 

            But how does an artist paint holiness?

            It’s easy to draw a baby. It’s not as easy to show that baby as God embodied. 

            The Christian church has historically claimed that God – also known as Father, Almighty, Creator, all-knowing, immortal, unchanging – became a human infant. Who is none of those things. At least, not yet. 


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23

Dec

2018

A nativity story updated

Author: Jim Taylor

           In those days a decree went out, from the emperors living in their glass houses with closed circuit surveillance cameras and 24-hour security patrols, that all the world should be embroiled in civil wars, so that their spheres of influence might be extended over unwilling populations. 

            And so the imperial forces used remote-control drones to bomb innocent victims in Yemen, and brought 20 million Yemenis to the brink of starvation. 

            And they burned to the ground 400 Rohingya villages in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and forced a seemingly endless line of 900,000 people to seek refuge in Bangladesh, where they lived in bamboo shelters on low-lying land prone to flooding.

            And they bombed prosperous cities in Syria and Iraq into rubble, and turned religious factions against each other, and drove the Yazidi minority to retreat into rocky mountains.

            And they maintained armies of occupation in Afghanistan and Crimea, and confined the residents of Gaza into their own private concentration camp, and built walls to restrict the movement of Mexicans and Hondurans and Palestinians. 

            And behold, the number of displaced people around the world, many of them refugees within their own countries, rose to 70 million. 


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12

Dec

2018

Nativity scenes

Author: Jim Taylor

Every year, my old friend Kenn Ward sets up a Nativity scene in his front yard in Winnipeg.

            Many of us have indoor Nativity scenes, often called a creche. And we never set the figures up exactly the same way each year. Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus take centre stage, of course. But the shepherds, the visitors from the east, the animals – they get shuffled around, depending on what we feel is the essential theme of the story, this year.

            Kenn has that problem too, with the bigger figures for his outdoor creche. “I never know quite what to expect,” he wrote on Facebook. “Usually one of the figures, or a group of them, insist that they have been neglected and deserve more prominence in the scene. There is often a clash of egos… 


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: Bible, Nativity, creche

23

Dec

2017

Nativity narratives contain powerful truth

Author: Jim Taylor

 I don’t recall which shift I had. I do remember that it was pitch black outside. A nightlight in one corner of the room cast a pale yellow glow onto the ceiling. The city slept.

            The darkness outside was so thick, it felt solid. The stars were pin-holes in the sky. No birds sang.

            I cradled little Rediet in my arms. I tried to synchronize my breathing with hers. I crooned nursery rhymes dimly recalled from my own childhood: the Farmer in the Dell, Three Blind Mice, Frere Jacques... The language was nonsense to her; she had never heard anything but Amharic. But the rumble of my voice resonating in my chest seemed to quiet her.

            She looked up at me.

            I looked into those coal-black Ethiopian irises, and I knew, deep in my heart, that I could never do anything that would hurt this child. Never.


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20

Dec

2017

Another Nativity story

Author: Jim Taylor

In those days a decree went out from the Emperors in Washington and Damascus that all the world should be embroiled in civil wars, so that their spheres of influence might be extended. And many were driven from their own towns by bombs and drones and tanks.

            A man named Joseph fled from his shattered ruins of his home and business in Syria across the harsh deserts to a refugee camp, where he knew no one. He went with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were in the camp, on their way to anywhere else, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son shortly before dawn, while others slept, in a tent provided by an international aid agency. She wrapped him in her own cloak to keep him warm through the bitter cold of a desert night, and she laid him on the sand, because they had nothing else to put him in.  


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